The Airbus A400M, which made its first flight in late 2009 (after two years of delay and $7 billion in cost overruns), is built for flexibility: It can haul two attack helicopters or 116 soldiers, while remaining maneuverable enough to get in and out of the front lines quickly.
The craft is powered by turboprops rather than jets, which can suck in debris on unimproved airfields. The relatively lightweight carbon-composite wings keep the plane’s weight low enough (the exact figure is a trade secret) that, when equipped with reinforced shocks, rugged tires and debris-resistant turboprops, the A400M can land on and take off from dirt and gravel runways. Yet the craft can carry 80,000 pounds, nearly twice as much as the rival Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.
The Airbus A400M can haul to attack helicopters or 116 soldiers, and still maneuver quickly.
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