The French Ministry of Defence has finally ordered 12 A330 MRTT air-to-air refuelling aircraft for the Armée de l’air in a long awaited contract with Airbus Defence and Space, announced on Thursday 20 November. First delivery is foreseen for 2018, followed by the second in 2019, and then at a rate of one or two per year.
The contract covers the development and qualification of the specific French configuration as well as the associated support and training systems, such as spares, ground support equipment, training devices and five years of in-service support from first delivery.
France’s choice of the A330 MRTT makes it the sixth nation to order the type following Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom which have ordered a total of 34 aircraft. A feature article on Royal Air Force A330 MRTT operations is found here on Airheadsfly.com.
In addition, India and Qatar have selected the MRTT and are in the final stages of contractual negotiations for six and two aircraft respectively. A total of 22 aircraft are currently in service and the aircraft has been battle-proven in recent coalition actions.
In French service the A330 MRTT will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, be equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refuelling Boom System and underwing hose- and-drogue refuelling pods, and can be configured in a variety of layouts carrying up to 271 passengers as well as medevac arrangements including the French Morphee intensive care module carrying up to ten patients as well as 88 passengers.
The A330 MRTT was once set to become the replacement of the US Air Force’s ageing KC-135. The contract was won, but after a long battle the favour turned in the direction of the Boeing KC-46. It is therefore ironic that Boeing is ‘being challenged’ in its KC-46 program, according to news reports on Thursday.
Source: Airbus Defence and Space, with additional reporting by © 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest