A400M transport aircraft with the state-of-the-art firefighting kit. / AIRBUS/VIDEO: ATLAS

Watch as Airbus successfully tests plane in Spain with huge water capacity to tackle forest fires

The aircraft is capable of dropping 20,000 litres of water in ten seconds

J.M.L

The aeronautical company Airbus has successfully developed an aircraft with hugely increased water capacity to fight forest fires. Flight tests on the A400M transport aircraft have been carried out at Uceda, Guadalajara – the Castilla-La Mancha province that has suffered several major forest fires this summer.

The aircraft has been fitted with a firefighting kit which is capable of dropping 20,000 litres of water in less than ten seconds. This is three times the water storage capacity of existing seaplanes and far exceeds those of the Air Force, which can deliver around 6,000 litres of water.

In tests at the Uceda field, which the army has been using since 1981, the Airbus aircraft demonstrated that it could drop water from as low as 150 feet above the ground and at a very low speed. The next step for the aeronautics giant will be to develop the production line for this firefighting kit and to test it at night; firefighting becomes less effective at night when most operations have to be suspended.

Currently, the A400M can cover distances of around 9,000 kilometres and has a cargo hold capable of carrying helicopters, armoured vehicles, heavy trucks and bulldozers and, if used to transport troops, can carry more than 100 soldiers. It can also be refuelled in mid-air.

The Spanish Air Force today operates 12 A400M aircraft – it is the army's largest cargo and transport aircraft – out of an initial order of 27 to be delivered by Airbus by 2030 to replace the legendary C-130 Hercules. Airbus assembles the planes at its Seville factory for the 31st Air Force Wing, based in Zaragoza.