Retrofit on TurAF’s First A400M Atlas Strategic Transport Aircraft at the 2nd AMFD to be Completed in July 2021

Date: March 06, 2021

Within the scope of the A400M Program, Turkey declared that 10 aircraft would be procured for the TurAF and signed a contract valued at €1.496 Billion in 2003 to this end. Project amount was disclosed as €1.496 Billion in the Activity Reports of 2009 and 2010 published by the SSB and stated as €1.332 Billion in the Activity Reports regarding the years 2011 and 2013. Each A400M Atlas Strategic Transport Aircraft’s costs €125 Million to Turkey.

Operated by the 221st Air Transport Squadron at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command located at Erkilet, Kayseri the A400M Atlas is a new generation military transport aircraft capable of conducting long-range tactical and strategic transport missions. The A400M represents the first Strategic Air Lift Capability that the TurAF has acquired for the first time in its history. With the tasks it executed so far, the A400M Atlas provend that it has increased the limits of the TurAF. There are currently 9 A400M Atlas Strategic Transport Aircraft in the service of the 221st Air Transport Fleet Command. With A400M Atlas Strategic Transport Aircraft TurAF is able to fly directly from the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command in Kayseri, turkey to the U.S. The 8.700km distance is a regular route for the TurAF, that performs  one or two flights per month to carry spare parts or the equipment that need to be repaired in the U.S.  TurAF A400M Atlas’ versatility keep its busy at home and abroad. Related to COVID-19 pandemic crisis TuAF A400M Atlas fleet performed global transport missions. As one of the world’s largest providers of humanitarian aid during the pandemic Turkey has helped at least 55 countries. On January 31, 2020 a TurAF A400M was among the first aircraft from NATO countries to arrive in Wuhan, China to evacuate Turkish citizens along with citizens of Azerbaijan, Albania and Georgia. During these missions A400M Atlas ensured a quick response and strategic reach and proved that when needed, A400M can turn into a Governmental asset for emergencies.

Photo: MSN-93

The first A400M Atlas Strategic Transport Aircraft with MSN009 (Manufacturer Serial Number 009) serial number and 13-0009 tail number entered into the service with a ceremony held at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command on May 12, 2014. The second A400M with MSN013 serial number and 14-0013 tail number landed at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command on December 23, 2014. The MSN009 and MSN013 went through a retrofit activity with emphasis on software and hardware (including the engine) for elevating them to the highest capability standard ready for utilization at the Prime Contractor of the A400M Program Airbus Defence & Space (ADS)’s Getafe facilities located 20km south of Spain’s capital Madrid during 2015-2016. The third A400M Atlas aircraft with MSN023 serial number manufactured for the TurAF crashed during the first test flight (Factory Acceptance Test) conducted at Seville/Spain on May 9, 2015. The MSN023 will be replaced with the 10th A400M in 2022. The third A400M with the MSN028 serial number and 14-0028 tail number (the fourth aircraft manufactured for the TurAF yet it is the third delivered aircraft) arrived at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command on November 25, 2016, while the fourth A400M with tail number 15-0051 was handed over on April 7, 2017. The initial flight test of the fifth A400M Atlas aircraft with 16-0055 tail number and MSN055 serial number was executed at San Pablo facilities of the ADS in Seville, Spain on April 18, 2017 and the acceptance of the aircraft was accomplished on July 13, 2017. The 6th A400M aircraft of TurAF with MSN078 serial number and 18-0078 tail number conducted its maiden flight on May 16, 2018 and arrived at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command on June 22, 2018. The 7th A400M with MSN080 serial number and 18-080 tail number landed at the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command on October 18, 2018 and the 8th A400M with MSN083 serial number and 18-0083 tail number landed on June 21, 2019 following the completion of acceptance flight test performed at San Pablo facilities of the ADS in Seville, Spain on June 20, 2019. The acceptance test activities of the 9th A400M of the TurAF with tail number 18-0094 and serial number MSN094 executed at ADS’ San Pablo facilities in Seville, Spain on August 7, 2019. The 8th and 9th A400Ms have been delivered with the latest standard, including tactical capabilities. The delivery of the 10th and the last A400M for the TurAF will take place in 2022. According to Mr. José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS, Airbus Defence and Space Vice President & Head of Product Marketing, the TurAF A400M fleet availability rates are among the highest of the A400M user nations.   

Locating at the 12th Air Transportation Main Base Command premises the 2nd Air Maintenance Factory Directorate (2nd AMFD, former 2nd Air Supply Maintenance Centre [ASMC], the name of facilities have been changed as 2nd Air Maintenance Factory Directorate in March 2017) has been certified by ADS to provide C-Level Overhaul service to TurAF A400Ms, following a detailed certification process conducted by ADS/AMTR personnel over a one year period. The A400M C-Level Overhaul service is being carried out at Aircraft Depot Level Maintenance & Repair (DLM&R) facilities of the 2nd AMFD. In this context, the A400M C-Level Overhaul Capacity Achievement Ceremony was held on February 22, 2018 at 12th Air Transport Main Base Command in Kayseri with the participation of the then MoND Nurettin CANİKLİ as well as TuAF and AMTR representatives. Thanks to this capability it was ensured that an average of 900.000 Euro, flowing abroad previously for each aircraft (for C-Level Overhaul), has remained in the national budget. In addition to this, the operational efficiency of TurAF A400Ms have been increased upon completion of the overhaul and repair processes in a period shorter than 2 months per aircraft, which is far lesser than the average 6 months period abroad. Meanwhile, TurAF A400M Aircraft Retrofit Contract Signing Ceremony was held on October 3, 2019 at the 2nd Air Maintenance Factory Directorate by ADS and ASFAT A.Ş. With this Project, the 2nd AMFD will acquire a very critical capability to carry out Depot Level maintenance (DLM) and retrofit of TurAF A400Ms and will be able to serve friendly and allied nations and our region in terms of the maintenance of A400M aircraft. According to our sources following the completion of the new hangar construction effort retrofit activities on TurAF’s first A400M at the 2nd AMFD was launched in December 2020 and scheduled to be completed in July 2021. 

On February 26, 2021 accompanied by Chief of Turkish General Staff (TGS) General Yaşar GÜLER, Force Commanders and Deputy MoND Muhsin DERE, Turkish Minister of National Defense (MoND) Hulusi AKAR visited 12th Air Transport Main Base Command located at Erkilet, Kayseri and get information on the current status of retrofit efforts being conducted at A400M hangar on the first TurAF A400M aircraft at the 2nd AMFD.

In 2017, the manufacturer ADS informed the nations involved in the A400M about high technical and economic risks in the project, which made it impossible to stick to the previous delivery and retrofitting plan and the planned capability development. After negotiations, all program nations Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey agreed with the manufacturer to realign the Program and to adapt the planning to the reality of the project. In this context, it was agreed to extend the entire delivery by 6 years. Instead of the previous 2020, all A400Ms are now to be delivered to the end users by 2026.

At the same time, a binding engine standard with improved propeller gears and improved torque sensors was defined. All A400Ms that will be delivered from July 2022 should have engines with this standard ex works. Since early 2017 the TP400-D6 engines with truncated plug solution has been installed on all new-built aircraft, which are being delivered under configuration level ‘Batch 4’. Simultanenously the planned permanent propeller gearbox (PGB) fix, called Pack-II has been developed and certified by EASA. Deliveries of Pack-II series of modifications to the TP400-D6 engine’s Avio Aero-supplied PGB have begun in 2019, prioritizing in-service aircraft. The Pack-II update mainly consits of modifications to remove a resonance and therefore reinfore endurance and reliability of the permanent propeller gearbox (PGB).

Photo: A Computer Generated Image depicts the working principle of  DIRCM System. Within the soft-kill method the missile deflect away from the Aircraft in a short span of a time

Contrary to German Air Force, Spanish Air Force and Rolay Air Force A400Ms which are being equipped with Elbit’s J-MUSIC, Indra’s IndShield DIRCM and Northrop Grumman’s LAIRCM (Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures Systems, the TurAF A400Ms are still operating without a comprhensive self-protection system or a Directed Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) System. Germany will integrate 24 (tactical versions) out of a total of 53 A400Ms with Elbit Systems’ J-MUSIC DIRCM System. For this purpose ADS has been awarded a Euro270 Million contract in June 2019 by the German BAAINBw Defence Procurement Agency to integrate and certify the J-MUSIC DIRCM System inside the A400M Defensive Aids Subsystem (DASS) for the German Air Forces’ A400Ms. As a subcontractor in June 2019, Elbit Systems announced that it had been awarded a contract worth some US$73 Million to provide J-MUSIC DIRCM systems to the German Air Force. The contract will be performed over a four-year period. Spanish Air Force on the other hand is equipping 9 out of a total of 24 A400Ms ordered from ADS with Indra’s IndShield DIRCM System. For this purpose in February 2018 a contract was awarded to Indra of Spain by OCCAR.

Meanwhile Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ) Deputy Directorate General of Aerostructure Directorate of Engineering successfully hosted the Critical Design Review (CDR) Meeting for the GE-DIRCM Project between Airbus and BAAINBw on behalf of the German Air Force in July 2020. The program, as part of which the Elbit System’s J-MUSIC based DIRCM System will be integrated and licensed for the A400M aircraft of the German Air Force, is closely followed by countries that own A400M. The project, which made considerable progress with the A400M GE-DIRCM CDR Meeting held on July 8, 2020, was signed on June 18, 2019 to increase the self-protection and operational capabilities of German Air Force A400Ms. The success of GE-DIRCM Project may attract and encourage other A400M users to equip their A400Ms with DIRCM System to increase their self-protection and operational capabilities.