Category Archives: Tankers

More countries join European tanker effort

NATO has taken another step towards filling its infmaous European tanker gap,  with three more European countries looking to join the European program to acquire new refuelling aircraft. The program was started by the Netherlands and Luxembourg and should result in a shared fleet of up to eight additional tanker aircraft.

On Thursday 16 February, defense ministers from Belgium, Germany, and Norway signed a Declaration of Intent to join the creation of a European multinational fleet of Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg launched this initiative in July 2016 and a first order was made for two MRTT aicraft, which are due to be delivered in 2020. The new agreement allows other partner countries to join the program with the provision to enlarge the fleet to up to eight aircraft. The aircraft should be stationed at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands.

Fresh order for KC-46 Pegasus

The US Air Force on Friday awarded Boeing a 2.1 billion USD contract for 15 KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, spare engines and wing air refueling pod kits. This order is the third low-rate initial production lot for Boeing. The first two came in August 2016 and combined 19 included airplanes, as well as spare parts.

Boeing plans to build 179 of the 767-based refueling aircraft for the air force to replace its KC-135  tanker fleet. Deliveries will begin later this year.

“This award is great news for the joint Boeing-Air Force team and reinforces the need for this highly efficient and capable tanker aircraft,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. “Our Boeing industry team is hard at work building and testing KC-46 aircraft, and we look forward to first delivery.”

Boeing received an initial contract in 2011 to design and develop the Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft. As part of that contract, Boeing built four test aircraft – two configured as 767-2Cs and two as KC-46A tankers. Those test aircraft, along with the first production plane, have completed nearly 1,500 flight hours to date.

Buddy refuelling by Airbus A400M

The Airbus A400M airlifter expanded its capabilities as an air-to-air refuelling platform by successfully demonstrating air-to-air refuelling contacts with another A400M, Airbus reported on Monday 14 November. In two flights conducted from Seville, Spain the development aircraft performed more than 50 contacts in level flight and turns using the centreline hose and drum unit (HDU).

Airbus ephasizes that its A400M is the only tactical tanker with this third refuelling point, in addition to its underwing pods, enabling refuelling of large receivers such as another A400M or C-130. It has a basic fuel capacity of 63,500 litres, which can be increased with two extra cargo hold tanks carrying 7,200 litres each, and can refuel from the HDU at a rate of 2,000 litres (600 US gallons) per minute. The technique would allow the A400M to carry a 20 tonne payload more than 6,000nm / 11,000km non-stop from Paris, France to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The standard A400M aircraft has full provisions for air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations already installed and only requires the rapid installation of the optional air-to-air refuelling kit to become a tanker.

Airbus flies improved A330 MRTT

Airbus Defence and Space on Monday 3 October reported it has successfully completed the maiden flight of the first new standard A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport. This model incorporates a number of enhancements introduced on the basic A330 as well as upgraded military systems as part of the company’s product improvement program.

The three-hour flight took place on 30 September and the crew reported that the aircraft performed in line with expectations. The new standard A330 MRTT features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements giving a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems. First delivery to customer Singapore is due in 2018.

A total of 51 A330 MRTTs have been ordered by 10 nations of which 28 have been delivered, according to Airbus. Apart from Singapore, France has ordered the aircraft. A joint purchase by the Netherlands and Luxembourg is to be finalized.

New European tankers one step closer

The Netherlands is ready to purchase two Airbus tanker/transport aircraft with Luxembourg, Dutch Defense minister Hennis Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert announced on Thursday 28 July.  The aircraft will be NATO property and will be stationed at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands for pooling and sharing. Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland intend to join the agreement at a later date.

The purchase of the MRTT A330 type aircraft is an important step in filling the notorious European tanker gap. Compared to the US, European nations individually and combined have very limited air-to-air refuelling capabilities.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) is closely involved in the purchase of the aircraft. Luxembourg and the Netherlands will have exclusive user rights. In addition to the purchase, the MRTT project also covers maintenance and operational deployment. The Netherlands leads the multinational collaboration project.

The new aircraft will be registered in the Netherlands and stationed at Eindhoven airbase, as reported previously here at Airheadsfly.com.  A study will be carried out to determine whether European Air Transport Command, which is also stationed in Eindhoven, will be able to supervise the MRTT pool.

Costs and personnel will be allocated on the basis of the number of flying hours that each country needs. The expected life span of the fleet is 30 years and the investment budget is between €250 million EUR and 1 billion EUR.

Expansion

The Netherlands and Luxembourg recorded the agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The contract with Airbus was signed today. If Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland decide to take part in the agreement, both the MoU and the quotation given by Airbus allow for expansion. If more countries do indeed decide to join, the design costs will be shared with these countries too, leading to lower costs for Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The number of A330 MRTT aircraft to be purchased could eventually rise to 8.

Collaboration

The 2 participating countries are examining the possibility of collaboration with France and the UK, among others, in relation to training and instruction as well as maintenance. France is set to receive its first A330 aircraft in 2018. The UK already has A330 MRTTs in service.

The 2 aircraft will be delivered from 2020. In the same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will start to gradually decommission its current two KDC-10 aircraft.