RAF’s Atlas Military Aircraft Sets New Milestone: Smashes Flight Record with 22-Hour Nonstop Journey to Guam
Everyone is eagerly waiting for the 2025 debut of Project Sunrise, which will bring pioneering nonstop flights from the East Coast of Australia to destinations such as New York, London, or Paris.
Nonstop flights have a different significance and huge strategic importance in the military. The Royal Air Force (RAF) recently hit a milestone during a large-scale exercise in the Pacific region.
Exercise Mobility Guardian is bringing together troops from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and France, in one of the most important strategic regions. During this exercise, these military forces are sharpening their cooperation and coordination skills, covering a training area that goes all the way from Australia to Japan and across the Pacific to Hawaii.
At the beginning of this week, an almighty A400M Atlas took off from RAF Brize Norton with Guam as its destination for exercise Mobility Guardian. Usually, there would be nothing out of the ordinary for a flight like this, but this time it was special. The RAF Atlas succeeded in flying without a single stop all the way to Guam, the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands in the North Pacific Ocean.
It was a challenging flight that lasted for nearly an entire day – 22 hours. It was officially recorded as the longest flight carried out by this type of aircraft. In other words, the RAF Atlas broke its own flight record. And there’s more. This particular Atlas also reached closer to the North Pole than any other Atlas aircraft before – two major achievements during a single flight.
This was possible due to aerial refueling, something that has long been considered a vital asset for military forces. Heavy-duty aircraft like the Atlas can cover huge distances in a relatively short time because they can get refueled mid-air by dedicated air-to-air refueling (AAR) tankers like the Voyager.
In this particular case, the Atlas didn’t have to make any stops during the flight to Guam because it got refueled three times in mid-air. An RAF Voyager carried out the first refueling over the Atlantic Ocean. An American Voyager from the US Airforce Eielson Airbase in Alaska took over the task the second time, over Alaska, and the third time, over the Pacific.
Although spectacular, record-breaking achievements like this nonstop flight aren’t for show. The ability to conduct air operations worldwide as fast as possible is one of the most critical and complex goals for RAF’s Air Mobility Force, which was specifically established for rapid global deployment.
The massive 147-foot (45 meters) A400M Atlas can transport more than 40 tons of military cargo on more than 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) routes. The Voyager is RAF’s only AAR tanker, with two operational versions – one has two underwing pods for refueling fast jets, and the other has an additional house for refueling larger aircraft.