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Airbus' Nex-Gen Transport Plane Is Stronger Than Hercules

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A nation's military does more than defend sovereignty. Most also act as first responders, delivering humanitarian aide to disaster victims. But, as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in the US, getting supplies into areas affected by natural disasters (or even forward operating bases) is far easier said than done. That's why a collaboration of European nations have spent more than a decade developing a heavy transport plane fit for the 21st century, the Airbus A400M Atlas.

"Stronger than Hercules" is quite a claim. Stronger than Sampson, too?

More interesting facts about the Atlas (they had me at "yaw"):  

Interestingly, the A400M's propellers are designed to turn in opposite directions. This not only reduces maintenance and replacement costs (most turbo prop planes have left- or right-handed engines depending on which wing they go on; this uses a gearbox to only turn the blades backwards so the engines themselves become universal), it also produces superior lift, reduces torque, prop wash, and yaw compared to the older designs where both engines on each wing turned the same direction.

Airbus' Next-Gen Transport Plane Is Stronger Than Hercules

Most impressive is the new plane's cargo capacity. At 81,600 pounds (116 paratroops or 66 stretchers with 25 attending medics) at 58 feet long, 13 feet wide, and 12 feet tall, it holds roughly double what the Hercules can. In addition, the Atlas is outfitted with aerial refueling equipment, allowing it to be used as a flying gas station, and can also be equipped with a variety of electronic surveillance and countermeasures for ISR operations.

Airbus' Next-Gen Transport Plane Is Stronger Than Hercules

To control this very large, very heavy plane without sacrificing maneuverability, speed, or altitude, the Atlas' three-person crew rely on a fly-by-wire flight control system similar to that found in the B-2 Stealth Bomber. All pertinent flight information is displayed in the glass cockpit—digital displays rather than traditional analog gauges. Multi-Colour Infrared Alerting Sensor (MIRAS) missile warning sensors have also been integrated into the plane's countermeasure systems.

Wow. Innovation in flight really has not stopped.

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