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GE Aviation, Hamble implements its series production of in-flight refueling probes for the Airbus A400M multi-role military airlifter

As the Royal Air Force receives its first Airbus A400M Altas at RAF Brize Norton, full-scale production of the refueling probe for the A400M is now well underway at GE Aviation, Hamble, providing key mission capabilities for this new-generation multi-role military transport.

The six-meter-long probe is installed on the A400M's upper fuselage above its cockpit, allowing the airlifter to be refueled in flight. Such refueling capability significantly extends the military transport's operational range, while also enabling it to take on fuel for the subsequent transfer to other aircraft when serving as an aerial tanker itself. 

GE Aviation, Hamble is responsible for the metallic refueling probe's design, manufacture and qualification – including full-scale static, vibration and lightning strike validations. As part of the production package, the company also designed, builds and supplies the carbon composite fairings that ensure smooth airflow at the probe's interface with the aircraft's fuselage.

“The full-scale production transition for A400M refueling probes resulted from a close cooperation involving the teams of GE Aviation, Hamble and aircraft prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space,” said Chris Hodson, military program manager for GE Aviation's Mechanical Systems business. “It is another demonstration of GE Aviation, Hamble's capabilities as a supplier of major components, including fuel systems and fuel tanks for a variety of military aircraft.”

As part of GE Aviation, Hamble's responsibilities, it supported Airbus Defence and Space in the A400M's in-flight refueling qualification trials as a receiver aircraft, which were performed earlier this year. The qualification included validation of the A400M's fly-by-wire flight control laws for refueling – involving making contacts with a tanker aircraft during a turn, performing turns while in contact, and refueling during descent in toboggan-type fuel transfers. 

GE Aviation will be building A400M refueling probes and fairings at the rate of 24 per year, delivering them to the aircraft's final assembly line in Seville, Spain. To date, Airbus Defence and Space has sold a total of 174 A400Ms, which are designed to replace aging C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall fleets currently in service around the world – meeting the harmonized needs of European NATO nations, as well as the requirements of international air forces. 

The A400M entered service in 2013 with the French Air Force, which has received five of its 50 on order. Delivery of the Royal Air Force's first A400M from an acquisition of 22 airlifters was achieved on 27th of November 2014, while the first of 53 for the German Air Force is now in pre-delivery flight test. The Royal Malaysian Air Force's initial A400M from its acquisition of four airlifters is taking shape on the final assembly line in Seville, Spain.

Production of the A400M refueling probes benefits from GE Aviation, Hamble's aviation fuel system expertise, which also includes its manufacture of 1,000 liter external supersonic fuel tanks and inflight refueling probes for the Typhoon combat aircraft and centerline fuel tanks on the Hawk T2 advanced jet trainer.

In addition to supplying the A400M's refueling probe, GE Aviation, Hamble manufactures a set of metallic components for the airlifter's wing trailing edge. This is part of the company's aerostructures activity, which involves elements on such aircraft as the Airbus A350 XWB – involving 3,000 components for the jetliner's wing fixed trailing edge package

Press release issued by GE Aviation Systems (Aerostructures) on December 2, 2014


 Contact details from our directory:
Airbus Defence & Space HQ Airframer
GE Aviation Systems (Aerostructures) Transparent Canopies, Empennages, Nacelles, Fuel Tanks & Systems, Fairings, Wing Flaps, Refueling Equipment, Aircraft Doors, Thrust Reversers, Aircraft Structural Components, Air Refuelling Systems


 Related aircraft programs:
Airbus A400M


 Related directory sectors:
Fuel Systems

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