After one last happy landing, the Airbus A400M MSN4 retires

A400M

The life cycle of the Airbus A400M MSN4 finally draws to a conclusion. The Airbus prototype, nicknamed “Grizzly 4” within the team, returns to Bremen after over twelve years of pushing boundaries to develop the A400M capabilities to their fullest. It has completed more than 2,000 flying hours, 1,000 flights, and several missions and campaigns.

The MSN4 team overcame every obstacle that came their way since the aircraft’s first flight on December 20, 2010, and they now look forward to its retirement with pride because this aircraft helped reimagine the future of military operations, transforming the A400M into the mature, dependable, and contemporary aircraft it is today.

The `Grizzly 4´

Aerial delivery, low-level flight, and air-to-air refueling, among other critical capabilities, have all been developed over the years using the Airbus A400M MSN4. Ignacio Lombo, Airbus Defence and Space’s Chief Test Pilot, has contributed to the development of the A400M and has flown in the MSN4 cockpit for almost 200 flights and 500 hours.

Representative | Aviation Militaires.net
I will keep Grizzly 4 in my memory as a strong and robust beast. We have taken it to the limit in speed, Mach, altitude, load factor (g’s) and almost tore off its skin!. This aircraft has exceeded all expectations in all kinds of operations with superior performance-  Ignacio Lombo

As it is essential for A400M operators today to fly farther and more safely during their military operations, as well as to be able to perfect combinations with other military platforms, MSN4 has also played a crucial role in the development and certification of the Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) capability.

MSN4 was our Aerial Refuelling workhorse, as it was the one where we tested receiver capabilities with tankers like A330 Voyager and C160 Transall. As a tanker, we used MSN4 to develop and certify pods refuelling with F18 receivers, Hose Drum Unit refuelling with F18s and A400M receivers, the Cargo Hold Tanks (CHT) and more recently, the Helicopter Aerial Refuelling capabilities with H225M Caracal. I feel particularly proud of the mission that first refuelled an A400M receiver (Grizzly 6) from an A400M tanker (Grizzly 4)- César González,  Flight Test Engineer in charge of the development and certification flight test of AAR capability, both as tanker and as receiver

Helicopter refueling trials with the A400M | Representative | Aviation International News

As cargo and parachute drops are crucial capabilities for A400M operators today, the MSN4 has played a decisive role in their development and certification. This is because it was built with the cargo compartment being instrumentation-free and fully useable for airborne delivery or additional fuel tanks (CHT).

I fondly recall the early days of aerial delivery tests where we went from the very start of single loads by gravity and extraction, towing of (large) parachutes at low level and high altitude, to dropping 25 tonnes of loads in a single sequential stick of extracted platforms, as well as air displays at some of the UK airshows- Simon Nicastro, A400M Flight & Integration Test Programme Manager at Airbus

As it can carry more paratroopers farther and more people, the A400M currently excels in the parachuting mission, adding to the strategic value it already provides to air force operators and society.

Back home

The MSN4 has returned to Bremen, where every A400M is made, bearing the “scars” of all the fights it participated in and helped win throughout its illustrious career. The Bremen team that will now host MSN4 is anticipating the months to come.

This project hits the heart of all of us here at the Bremen site. Before being placed at its final location next to the Bremen Airport, where everyone landing in Bremen will see it, it will get a new coat of paint and be configured to host team meetings and workshops as well as be part of the official guided site tour- Dennis Neumann, Head of A400M Industrial Programme in Bremen, and currently leading the project for the future of the MSN4

The warrior that it was!

The MSN4 team overcame every obstacle that came their way since the aircraft’s first flight on December 20, 2010, and they now look forward to its retirement with pride because this aircraft helped reimagine the future of military operations, transforming the A400M into the mature, dependable, and contemporary aircraft it is today.

Representative | Airbus A400M | Aeroscopia, Toulouse | Prashant Prabhakar

In addition, as part of Airbus’ commitment to a more sustainable military aviation, the MSN4 was the first aircraft within the Military Air Systems unit to perform a first demo flight with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) last summer, paving the way for its successors into a cleaner future and assisting in the decarbonization of military aviation. Today, more than 100 A400M aircraft are deployed in eight different countries.

angeles molina | © Airbus SAU 2022 Maria Molina Mango Producciones

SOURCE : AIRBUS

COVER: AIRBUS

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