Longest-Flight Ever! British A400M Atlas Completes 22-Hour Nonstop Flight To Guam For Mobility Guardian 2023 Drills

A Brize Norton A400M Atlas aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF) has achieved a major achievement by successfully completing the longest flight ever recorded for this particular aircraft model as part of the RAF’s deployment for Exercise Mobility Guardian 23. 

Tupolev Tu-160M, Russia’s Upgraded & Cutting-Edge Strategic Bomber, Begins State Testing Amid Ukraine War

Setting a new milestone in its history, the Atlas aircraft departed from RAF Brize Norton on July 3 and completed a non-stop journey to Guam of 20 hours and 36 minutes, said the Royal Air Force.  

During its flight to Guam, the A400M Atlas conducted three crucial refueling operations to ensure a continuous and uninterrupted mission. 

The first refueling took place over the Atlantic Ocean, where a Voyager aircraft from 10/101 Squadron departed from the UK, while the second and third refueling missions occurred over Alaska, with an additional Voyager from the United States Air Force Eilson Air Base fulfilling this crucial role.

The aircraft also achieved another milestone by setting a record for this specific aircraft type’s closest flight to the North Pole.

“During the flight, the route also took the Atlas closer to the North Pole over the Arctic ice cap than any previous flight by this aircraft type,” the published press release reads. 

A Royal Air Force Atlas Carries Out Longest Ever Flight for Pacific Air Exercise

The impressive showcase of the RAF’s air power projection capabilities exemplifies the speed, range, and effectiveness of the Air Mobility Force, facilitating the rapid deployment of aircraft, crews, and vital equipment to remote locations worldwide.

In a statement, Air Commodore Anthony Lyle, the RAF’s Air Mobility Force Commander, said, “The non-stop flight of the A400M Atlas from RAF Brize Norton to Guam is a great example of our ability to project air power, allowing us to get aircraft, crews and vital equipment to the other side of the world in a timely manner and for them to be able to operate immediately.”

The A400M Atlas was introduced into RAF service towards the end of 2014, and the 22nd and final aircraft was delivered earlier this year, marking the completion of the fleet’s transition from the C-130J Hercules. The retirement of the last C-130J Hercules occurred on June 28.

Over time, the Atlas has undergone incremental testing to enhance its range of capabilities. One significant milestone was achieved in 2021 when the aircraft successfully conducted its first air-to-air refueling (AAR), a capability that proved vital for the success of this record-breaking flight.

Upon reaching Guam, the Atlas aircraft, accompanied by an RAF Voyager, personnel from the Tactical Medical Wing, and other support staff from various units within the RAF, joined forces with counterparts from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and New Zealand to participate in Exercise Mobility Guardian 23.

Exercise Mobility Guardian 23

Exercise Mobility Guardian 2023 (MG23), which commenced on July 5 in the Indo-Pacific region, is acknowledged as the most comprehensive full-spectrum readiness exercise in the history of Air Mobility Command. 

Building upon previous editions, MG23 aims to address the obstacle of distance by facilitating mobilization, deployment, and sustainment functions essential for the Joint Force, as well as allies and partners, to respond effectively to global challenges.

As a multinational effort, MG23 includes the participation of seven countries: Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Throughout the exercise, approximately 70 mobility aircraft will be deployed across various locations within a sprawling drill area that spans 3,000 miles. 

The exercise will run until July 21 and involve more than 3,000 personnel providing direct support. MG23 aims to facilitate the involvement of over 15,000 US forces and allied and partner personnel, significantly surpassing the scale of previous iterations.

The US Air Force said that the preparations for this Pacific operation began in the spring of 2022, involving over 200 Air Mobility Command (AMC) planners who worked together to establish seamless interoperability among joint and combined international forces. 

Airmen assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Wing conducted an Engine Running Crew Change during exercise White Stag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ, on March 8, 2023. An ERCC allows aircrews to swap while the aircraft is still running, minimizing the possibility of maintenance issues. (US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio Avalos)

The primary objective of the exercise is to improve readiness capabilities and interoperability among the participating nations in diverse mission areas such as airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, command, and control, as well as humanitarian and disaster assistance.

Lt. Col. Jake Parker, MG23 exercise director, said, “The collaboration and connection formed alongside our DoD teammates and our allies and partners during planning and execution will pay dividends today, tomorrow, and into our unquestionably complex future.”

Alongside MG23, it has been highlighted that the Mobility Air Forces (MAF) will play a critical role in serving as the “cohesive glue” for a series of additional exercises in the Indo-Pacific region throughout the summer. 

This emphasizes the significance of logistics and practical interoperability in enabling the effective movement of forces across the theater, highlighting the role of AMC in facilitating meaningful maneuvers and operations.