Ministry of Defence agrees £410m Atlas aircraft contract

An A400M aircraft Image copyright Ministry of Defence
Image caption A total of 22 A400M aircraft are due to enter service with the RAF by 2019

A £410m contract for maintenance of the RAF's new Atlas A400M aircraft has been agreed by the Ministry of Defence.

The fleet of 14 transporters is based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and is set to increase to 22 by 2019.

The support contract with Airbus Defence and Space in Bristol will pay for maintenance, repairs and upgrades of the aircraft until 2026.

They are operated by 70 Squadron and the MoD said the deal would secure the future of at least 400 jobs.

'Backbone of the RAF'

Air Marshal Julian Young, Chief of Materiel (Air) at the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said it was a "key" contract for the RAF.

He said: "The A400M Atlas will form the backbone of the Royal Air Force's Strategic and Tactical Air Transport capability over the next decade and beyond."

The aircraft will replace the existing fleet of C-130 Hercules, which has been the workhorse of the RAF's air transport fleet for decades.

They have a cargo capacity of 37 tonnes and are capable of carrying passengers, heavy vehicles, helicopters or cargo pallets to support military tasks and humanitarian relief efforts.

The Atlas programme's supply chain sustains about 200 further jobs sustained at companies in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Sussex, the MoD said.

Image copyright Ministry of Defence
Image caption The A400M is capable of carrying almost twice as much cargo as its predecessor, the C-130 Hercules

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