Tag Archives: A330MRTT

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.

First operational RAAF KC-30 refuelling of E-7

A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (Airbus A330 MRTT) has used its air‑to‑air refuelling boom for the first time on operations while refuelling a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail (Boeing 737) last week during a Coalition mission above Iraq, the Ministry of Defence in Canberra announced on 27 October 2015.

The air-to-air boom refuelling process involved two large aircraft, military versions of the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737-700, approaching within metres of each other while in flight and transferring fuel via a manoeuvrable pipe, known as a boom, which extends back from the rear of the KC-30A. This type of refuelling involves use of the AAR boom at the rear of the aircraft, rather than the wingtip AAR drogues used to refuel smaller aircraft equipped with an AAR probe.

A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail carries out the first operational air-to-air refuellilng from a RAAF KC-30A operations above Iraq on 23 October 2015 (Image © CPL Ben Dempster /  	28SQN AFID - AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail carries out the first operational air-to-air refuellilng from a RAAF KC-30A operations above Iraq on 23 October 2015 (Image © CPL Ben Dempster / 28SQN AFID – AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

The Air Refuelling Operator was responsible for remotely manoeuvring the boom from a control panel on the KC-30A flight deck. While moving at an altitude of 25,000 feet at speeds over 400 knots the KC-30 crew transferred 34,750 pounds of fuel within 15 minutes. That’s equal to 300 family sedan cars at a rate of less than three seconds per car.

A KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail, along with six F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, are deployed with the Australian Air Task Group as part of Operation Okra – the Australian contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve – or air strikes against the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) forces in Iraq and Syria.

Source: Australian Government – Ministry of Defence
Featured image (top): The view from the cockpit of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft as it approaches a RAAF KC-30 Multirole Tanker Transport aircraft in the sky over northern Iraq on 23 October 2015, during the first operational refuelling of the E-7 Awacs. Clearly visible is the extended probe of the tanker’s refuelling boom, which features the latest technology available for this difficult operation. (Image © Major Cameron Jamieson / HQJTF633 / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

AirTanker: Voyagers for joint European use

AirTanker, the company behind the Royal Air Force (RAF) Airbus A330 Voyager program, is currently in talks with the RAF on supporting the transport and air-to-air refueling (AAR) needs of other allied nations. This should accelerate the introduction into service of more European Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

AirTanker provides the RAF with Voyager MRTT aircraft, including maintenance and pilot, crew and engineer training. The company now seeks to offer this service to other nations as well. Future cooperation could include shared training and expertise or the pooling and sharing of assets across NATO and Europe.

Talks were also held with the European Defence Agency (EDA), AirTanker confirms. Under an EDA-initiative, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland have set out to buy a shared fleet of four MRTT aircraft. France has also ordered the type, while countries such as the Czech Republic are desperate for added transport and AAR capabilities. The EDA pointed to a European ‘tanker gap’ years ago, and AirTanker’s recent talks are aimed at filling this gap.

“The RAF remains our core customer but we are now working with it and the MOD to explore opportunities to extract additional value from the Voyager program”, AirTanker CEO Phil Blundell said.

AirTanker’s fleet consists of twelve transport and AAR capable Voyager aircraft, the last of which was delivered to the AirTanker hub at Brize Norton airbase in the UK in June. Two more Voyager are scheduled for delivery in January and September 2016.

Nine aircraft form the core of the RAF tanker capability. The type is now almost a year into its first operational deployment, supporting fighter aircraft during their missions over Iraq and Syria. US AV-8B Harrier and French Dassault Rafales also received fuel from Voyagers.

Agreements allow for civil use of the Voyager aircraft already. One Voyager was converted to a regular Airbus A330 and delivered to Thomas Cook airlines in May 2014.

More on AirTanker’s operations should follow at Airheadsfly.com later this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The Voyager in action (Image © AirTanker)

First boom contact for RAAF KC-30

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30 (A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport – MRTT) made the first ever air refuelling boom contact in RAAF service on Wednesday 13 May. During a three hour flight from Amberley airbase, the crew deployed the 17-meter long Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) which is mounted beneath the tail of the fuselage.

The RAAF’s five KC-30As are equipped with hose-and-drogue refuelling pods for supplying fuel to F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. The A330 MRTT itself however requires a boom for inflight refuelling, along with the six Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs the RAAF operates.

Wednesday marked the first time an Aussie KC-30 hooked up to a fellow KC-30 that way. No fuel was transferred, but the crew made 14 successful ‘dry’ contacts. Airbus crews did similar test before with the KC-30.

The RAAF operates five KC-30As, the first being introduced in mid-2011. Each KC-30A can carry more than 100 tonnes of fuel.

20150513raaf8144078_073_KC-303
(Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
(Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
(Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30, seen earlier this year at Eindhoven, the Netherlands, during the aftermath of the MH17 tragedy. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30, seen earlier this year at Eindhoven, the Netherlands, during the aftermath of the MH17 tragedy. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): As seen from the cockpit of the receiving KC-30. (Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

Gates open for the Flying Gas Station of South Korea

South Korea has officially entered the beginning of the end of the selection process of an in-flight refuelling aircraft for its Republic of Korea Air Force. Long due and delayed many times, Seoul has officially opened the bidding contest on Tuesday 14 April 2015.

With money and interoperability with the US Air Force as important issues the three candidates for the four tanker aircraft are the Airbus A330 MRTT, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus and the Israeli Aerospace Industries Boeing 767-300ER MMTT solution. Two of the four aircraft of the expected future have to be available by 2018, the second pair within two years after that, according to sources in Seoul.

The Israeli solution of refurbishing existing aircraft seems to be the cheapest solution, with the type on its way to the Brazilian Air Force, the KC-46 the most logical choice politically speaking and the A330 MRTT probably the best choice if Seoul chooses for a proven platform instead of a new.

A RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet waits while a RAAF KC-30A taxis past at Al Minhad Airbase, UAE (Image © SGT Andrew Eddie / 28SQN AFID - AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
Combat proven with many of US and European made aircraft: the Airbus A330 MRTT in RAAF service as KC-30A, seen here in action at Al Minhad Airbase in the UAE supporting the war on ISIS (Image © SGT Andrew Eddie / 28SQN AFID – AMB / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

The A330 MRTT already is or will be in service with the Royal Air Force (Voyager; 10 aircraft plus 4 planned, flown by AirTanker), Royal Australian Air Force (KC-30; 5 aircraft with 2 more expected), the United Arab Emirates Air Force (3), the Royal Saudi Air Force (3 plus 3 ordered), Singapore (6 planned), Qatar (2 planned), France (12 planned), India (6 planned), Spain (2 planned), the Netherlands (2 planned) and European NATO nations Belgium / Norway / the Netherlands (2 planned). Note that only 9 RAF Voyagers are fully equipped as in-flight refueller to have London save costs.

The pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)
The future mainstay of the US Air Force tanker fleet: a pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)

Although the number of 62 A330 MRTTs looks impressive, it is small compared to the 179 to 400 KC-46s the US Air Force is expecting to field the coming years. But the Boeing project has been hit by delays and the first fully-equipped Pegasus is yet to make its first flight, planned for July this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The RAF Voyager, or Airbus A330 MRTT (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Test flight with the new Boeing 767-300ER MMTT tanker/cargo aircraft converted by IAI (Image © Israeli Aerospace Industries)
Test flight with the new Boeing 767-300ER Multi-Mission Tanker / Transport converted by IAI (Image © Israeli Aerospace Industries)