The UK’s first A400M Atlas has been named “City of Bristol” by the Royal Air Force in a rare honour to highlight the important role industry in the city has played in the delivery of the aircraft.
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The wings of the next-generation military transporter plane were designed and manufactured at the Airbus factory in Filton, Bristol, with a number of other businesses in the city, including Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, and Atkins, demonstrating a range of high quality aerospace skills which support the A400M programme.
A total of 22 A400M Atlas aircraft have been ordered by the Ministry of Defence’s procurement arm, Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S), which is also based in the city at Abbey Wood.
The naming of the aircraft is a special privilege for Bristol, since it is unusual for the RAF to name an individual aircraft in this way.
Speaking at a ceremony at the Airbus site to mark the event, Defence Minister Philip Dunne said: “The A400M programme has created or secured work for around 900 people at companies based here in Bristol and is providing skilled jobs in manufacturing, engineering and supply chain roles.
“Many of these jobs require training to acquire specialist new skills needed to help keep the UK aerospace sector at the forefront of this high technology industry.
“The MOD is playing its part in contributing to our long-term economic plan and this A400M programme will become an important contributor to the defence supply chain, here in Bristol, for years to come.”
To mark the honour, the “City of Bristol” A400M Atlas recently completed a fly-past of the Clifton Suspension Bridge which also served as a reminder of the engineering history of the city.
Chief of Materiel Air, Air Marshal Simon Bollom said: “Bristol is at the heart of the UK aerospace community which has progressed through time and industry from the Bristol built engines like Jupiter – the most successful aero engine of the 1920s – through to famous jets such as Concorde.
“This tradition continues with state of the art work being carried out at Airbus’s Filton site on wings for the A400M, supported by complex work packages from GKN, Rolls-Royce and Atkins and this rare naming honour is recognition for the long and entrenched affiliation between the City of Bristol and British aviation.”
Manufactured by Airbus Defence & Space the A400M Atlas will replace the existing fleet of C-130 Hercules and represents major advances on its predecessor, with it capable of flying considerably faster, twice as far and able to carry almost twice as much cargo.