Royal Air Force pilots conduct a pre-flight checklist in an A400M “Atlas” prior to takeoff in Naples, Italy, Dec. 11, 2015. The aircraft conducted its first NATO mission with Allied Joint Force Command Naples and was used to transport 24 passengers attending ‘Naples Vision 4” to Bucharest, Romania on Dec. 9, and returned them to Naples, Italy on Dec. 11. (NATO photo by Capt. Ryan Hengel)
11 DEC 2015
NAPLES, Italy – Allied Joint Force Command Naples in partnership with the Royal Air Force executed the first ever NATO mission utilizing the A400M “Atlas.”
The aircraft was used to transport 24 passengers attending ‘Naples Vision 4” to Bucharest, Romania on Dec. 9, 2015 and returned them to Naples, Italy on Dec. 11. The A400M was operated by the Royal Air Force and is an expansion of NATO’s current air transportation capabilities.
“We are very pleased to be slowly expanding the capability of the aircraft, slowly flying further and to further destinations, taking different loads, different people, showing the aircraft off and getting used to operating it,” said RAF Squadron Leader J.J. Harrison of the XXIV Squadron, RAF Brize Norton, United Kingdom.
The squadron is the operational conversion unit for the Atlas; training all of the A400M pilots for the Royal Air Force. Harrison further explained the unique capability the new aircraft will bring to NATO.
“We are effectively a Herc (C-130, Hercules) replacement, but with a wide body. So we can take larger, wider loads than the Herc can but we can get anywhere a C-130 can get to,” said Harrison. “All nations in NATO are using ever larger vehicles, ever larger pieces of equipment, and so the Herc can’t carry the specific loads that we (the A400M) can.”
Seven Allied NATO nations will be receiving the A400M “Atlas” by 2019 representing an expansion of NATO’s airlift capability and capacity. The completion of this mission signifies the A400M being added as NATO’s newest airlift aircraft with Allied Joint Force Command Naples being the first command to utilize it.
Story and photos by U.S. Air Force Captain Ryan Hengel, Allied Joint Force Command Naples
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