The RAF Voyager, or Airbus A330 MRTT (Image © Elmer van Hest)

‘Four A330 MRTT to form European tanker fleet’

Four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft are to form the future shared European fleet of tanker and transport aircraft. The number of four is mentioned in a letter sent to Dutch parliament by the Dutch Ministry of Defense on 18 December 2014. The Netherlands is in the lead in acquiring and forming a shared European pool of tanker aircraft.

The international project has teamed up with Airbus in order to acquire four Airbus MRTTs, with a contract to be signed in 2016 and first deliveries expected in 2020. In that same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will retire both its current McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tankers. Other countries participating in the program are Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Norway, with a letter of intent signed two years ago. NATO will pay for the aircraft.

The selection of the Airbus MRTT comes as no surprise. The type is in use with several air forces worldwide already, including Spain and the UK. France recently ordered the type by itself also. A story on Royal Air Force MRTT operations is here.

It will be interesting to see how the program combines the use of probe and drogue methods with the concept of boom operations for air-to-air refuelling. Types as the Dassault Mirage, F/A-18 Hornet, Tornado, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon use the former, while current F-16s and future F-35 Lightning IIs use the latter.

A shared pool of aircraft is not unheard of in Europe. The European Heavy Airlift Wing in Pápa, Hungary, operates three Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs.

© 2014 editor Elmer van Hest

Airbus Defense and Space has finally landed an order from France for 12 A330 MRRT aircraft. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Royal Air Force  A330 MRRT aircraft. (Image © Elmer van Hest)