EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell spotted the capabilities of the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft while flying aboard a Belgian plane over Belgium on Wednesday.
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He welcomed the close military cooperation between Belgium and Luxembourg, which has led in particular to the creation of a binational Belgium-Luxembourg airlift squadron, the BNU A400M, which will eventually include eight aircraft based at Melsbroek.
Josep Borrell, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission, undertook a tactical flight of about an hour, which took him to Florennes, together with Luxembourg Defense Minister François Bausch, for an attack landing with removal of part of the aircraft commandos and artillerymen and an RRV Fox vehicle, then after Schaffen near Diest (Flemish Brabant) to simulate parachutists, the Belga agency noted.
Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS), who was also due to attend, was held back in the plenary by a debate on the case of Jürgen Conings, this far-right soldier who has been on the run for almost a month.
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The A400M, christened Atlas, is aFlagship of the European aviation industry‘ Mr Borrell underscored during a press conference at the end of this flight.’The experience was impressive‘ he added after observing the scenery from the plane’s side door during a low-altitude flight, from which paratroopers usually jump.
Flagship of the European aviation industry
He welcomed the “remarkable example of cooperation” between Belgium and Luxembourg, which have sought to jointly buy and operate eight aircraft – one Luxembourger delivered last October and seven Belgians, the last of which is expected in 2024, according to Major General Frederick Vansina.
It is a good example of how Defense Europe is developing, Mr Borrell added.
The BNU’s eight A400Ms would eventually replace a dozen C-130H Hercules which had been operated by the Air component’s 20th Squadron for nearly 50 years, the last of which will be retired by the end of the year.
Each A400M, equipped with four large turboprops, offers 1.5 times the payload capacity of a C-130 in volume and twice the weight, while having a longer range and significantly higher speed, according to the 15th Air Force’s deputy flight group leader .Airlift Squadron, Lt. Col. Thomas Debert.