Aircraft

In pictures: Student pilots take on the Mach Loop in RAF A400M

The Mach Loop is a set of valleys situated in Wales regularly used for low-level flight training.

Student pilots from 30 Sqn RAF Brize Norton have taken on the Machynlleth Loop, better known as the 'Mach Loop'.

They conducted low-level training in an Atlas A400M before completing a number of simulated airdrops over England and Wales, captured here in an image gallery.

Low-level flying is usually attributed to fighter jets but, despite its size, the Atlas A400M is geared up to do it – and it is a vital skill for the aircraft and aircrew of the Royal Air Force.

With its fly-by-wire controls, the Atlas is incredibly responsive, allowing it to hug the terrain making it less detectable and less susceptible to any threats while completing tasks such as the airborne delivery of stores and personnel and transiting to tankers to fuel up.

The Mach Loop is one of the UK's three Tactical Training Areas (TTA), mapped out for routine operational low-flying training by fast jets and Hercules transport aircraft of the RAF and other allied nations.

It is a set of Welsh valleys, situated between Dolgellau in the north, and Machynlleth in the south – and from which the Mach Loop gets its name.

Watch: What is the Mach Loop?

The circular route through the Welsh valleys provides an ideal location to train in the art of low flying – an essential skill that is practised by fixed-wing aircraft at between 100ft and 250ft.

This is an altitude at which a pilot might fly in a combat scenario.