Many Mobility airframes from 11 international countries are attending Mobility Guardian, including the Royal Air Force’s A400M Atlas as it makes its debut in a large-scale exercise.
The tactical airlifter is comparable to the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III. Capable of all major components of airlift, including transport, airdrops and aeromedical evacuation, it will eventually replace the C-130 for the RAF, leaving only a small fleet of the older aircraft in service.
Although the A400 has operated in exercises previously, Mobility Guardian is the largest and most diverse, which gives the aircraft a chance to shine.
“Exercise Mobility Guardian 2017 is a real opportunity for us,” said Wing Commander Ed Horne, Number 70 Squadron commanding officer, RAF Brize Norton, U.K. “It’s the first time we’ve deployed the aircraft on an exercise like this. The aircraft arrived in service with the Royal Air Force in 2014, so we’re still preparing the aircraft for operations overseas. This is really an excellent opportunity for us to operate with our coalition partners.
“[Mobility Guardian] will demonstrate to our partners that the A400M Atlas is a really capable platform,” he added. “It’s also of benefit to me and my guys to be meeting people from all over the world that we might well be operating with in a real-world scenario in the future.”
While the aircraft is at Mobility Guardian, the RAF’s international partners, including the United States, are able to work with the aircraft for the first time and learn how it can be used as an asset to the Mobility mission.
“With the aircraft being new to them, it’s also new to us,” said Maj. Andrew Rich, Mobility Guardian Joint Task Force director of operations. “We’d like to learn about it and how we can incorporate it into how we fight. We’re exploring the interoperability pieces of how our equipment fits on their aircraft and how their equipment fits on ours. Being interoperable gives us a chance to be more flexible when we go downrange.”
The A400 is slotted for nine missions during Mobility Guardian, providing the opportunity to learn more about the aircraft and to help partnerships flourish.
“Coalition partners are very important to us,” said Rich. “We rely on them, and they rely on us. We don’t go into any conflict without them. We trust them, and we love having them here. We can’t wait to bring them back next time.”