Airbusâ€™s new A330-based high-capacity transport, designed to replace the A300-600ST Beluga fleet, will provide a 12% increase in payload.
The airframer has given more details of the modified aircraft, which is scheduled to enter service in mid-2019.
Airbus programme chief Didier Evrard, speaking in Toulouse, said the jet â€“ currently designated the Beluga XL â€“ would have a 1m (3.3ft) wider cross-section than its predecessor.
It would be intended primarily for A350 work, and is being designed with capacity to ship two A350 wings simultaneously.
Five aircraft will be â€œprogressivelyâ€ built, says Evrard. The first two are â€œessentialâ€ to supporting ramp-up operations, he says, with the remaining three being introduced as the current Beluga fleet retires.
â€œThe sky of Toulouse would not be the sky of Toulouse without the Beluga flying in it,â€ says Evrard.
He points out that the Beluga programme will be used as a training exercise to refine Airbusâ€™s development processes, in order to make them faster and simpler.
Airbus expects the Beluga XL fleet to offer an extra 30% transport capacity to the manufacturer, which has been adapting its logistics strategy in various ways to cope with the demands of A350 production ramp-up.
â€œWe can relieve a lot of the [ramp-up] burden by moving smaller components to road traffic,â€ says Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams, adding that the airframer will â€œfocus the Beluga on very big componentsâ€.