Tag Archives: Airbus A330 MRTT

Here Are The Very First Photos Of The New A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport In French Air Force Livery

The Armée de l’air has just made public the first images of the new MRTT Phénix sporting French Air Force livery and markings.

With a post on their official FB page, the French Air Force has released the first air-to-air shots of the first A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport for France.

The aircraft, which will be known in French service as Phénix, is the first of nine ordered by the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (plus another three expected to be confirmed). The FAF A330 MRTT made its first flight in September 2017. It features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems and it was converted in Getafe from a standard A330 assembled in Toulouse.

The photographs just released appear to have been shot earlier today, based on the timestamp on the images. The depicted A330 sports the text “31 EARTS” below the front door just behind the cockpit, from the  31e escadre aérienne de ravitaillement et de transport stratégiques a French Air Force unit activated on Aug. 27, 2014 at Istres and currently equipped with the C-135FR, the text ARMEE DE L’AIR and the emblem of the GRV 02.091 on the tail.

A side view of the new A330 MRTT. The timestamp suggests the image was taken on Jul. 6, 2018, few hours before the photos were released on FB by the French Air Force FB page.

According to Airbus Defence and Space, the Phénix fleet will be equipped with a combination of the Airbus Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. Fifty-one A330 MRTTs have been ordered by eight nations.

Image credit: French Air Force. Make sure you visit their official FB page for more shots.

We are closer to a European shared Aerial Refueling Capability

“Pooling and Sharing” may soon apply to the Aerial Refueling capability.

As we reported it at the end of last year, Poland, the Netherlands and Norway are willing to acquire shared aerial refueling capabilities. According to the information obtained by Polish media outlet defence24.pl, Poland’s share in the program is 22 percent, proportional to the flight hours allocated to the Polish Air Force.

In his interview for defence24, Jacek Sońta, spokesperson for the Polish Ministry of Defense stated that the request for proposal is about to be sent to the contractor – the Airbus company, which will provide the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft – by the OCCAR agency (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière D’armement – Organization for joint cooperation within the field of armament), part of EDA (European Defense Agency), on behalf of the program member states.

Analysts highlighted that the tanker fleet spending is not contained within the Polish MoD’s “Technical Modernization Plan,” however, the Polish F-16 fighter jets are already using the refueling services provided to them by RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) and it is quite likely that the budget allocated to the AAR (air-to-air refueling) missions will be shifted to the program led by the EDA.

According to the report published by Aviation Week, ultimately up to four A330 MRTTs are going to be used for carrying out the refueling tasks. The basic plan assumes that the tankers are to reach the operational capabilities by 2019, and the program itself is to begin in mid-2020. The relevant agreement is scheduled to be signed next year, according to the information provided by the Polish MoD.

What is more, Aviation Week sheds some light on the operational details pertaining the joint aerial refueling initiative: the fleet of tankers is going to be based at the Eindhoven Air Base, even though the program assumes that forward operating locations will be established within the territories of the program participants. Airbus is going to provide the A330 tankers with both the flying boom, as well as the hose-and-drogue refueling systems.

One of the air bases in Poland that is probably going to host the tankers is Powidz AB, home for the Polish Air Force’s fleet of the Hercules transport aircraft, and equipped with a sufficiently long runway. So far it has accommodated large aircraft such as the E-4B, the AWACS, and more recently – the USAF A-10 deployment, which was a part of the Theater Security Package deployed to Europe, in the light of the Ukrainian Crisis.

Aviation Week also duly notes that the initiative is going to constitute a replacement for the Dutch KC-10 tankers, while in case of Norway it is going to seriously bolster the F-35 program. In case of Norway and Poland, utilizing the tanker would be a novelty. The whole program stems from the fact that, so far, the European air forces were relying on the US air refueling assets during training as well as real operations (like in Libya or the Balkans). Thus, a new, independent tanker program would provide the Europeans with a higher degree of independence.

The formal procedures related to the multinational use of the aerial-refueling capabilities are yet to be created.

Notably, the Airbus’s aircraft could also be used for multi-role transport operations and support several different duties, including the deployments of land forces abroad.

Image credit: © Commonwealth of Australia 2015


Norway, Poland and The Netherlands to Acquire Shared Aerial Refueling Capability

European Defense Agency has published a Statement according to which the Netherlands, Norway and Poland have expressed their will to start negotiations with the Airbus Defence & Space Company, regarding acquisition of the MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) aircraft.

As shown by the Air War in Libya in 2011, tankers are among the most important assets in any modern military air campaign. Several European air forces lack the (somehow basic) capability to project the air power by supporting their front line fighter jets and attack planes with aerial refuelers and, in light of the ever shrinking defense budgets, they are looking at the “pooling and sharing” principle to optimize resources.

Therefore, whilst Sweden, has already started collective aerial refueling activities with the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767, (along with France and the UK), Norway, Poland and the Netherlands have decided to create a joint tanker force based on the Airbus A330 MRTT.

Back in March 2012, Defense Ministries of these countries declared that they were willing to further develop the air-refueling capability among the European air forces. This initiative has also been endorsed by the European Council, which considers it to be one of the four key programs within the scope of operational capability development. What is interesting, more partner states are invited to participate in the program, further on the road, which means that they may join the initiative later on. Initial Operational Capability is expected to be obtained by 2019.

The Netherlands, along with Norway and Poland decided to use NSPA (NATO Support Agency) support and to ask OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement) for help within the scope of starting the relevant negotiations with the Airbus Defence & Space company.

According to altair.com.pl the negotiations do not mean that any agreement would be signed afterward. Indeed, the release published on the official website of the European Defense Agency states that “(…) engagement in further negotiations does not constitute a commitment by EDA, NSPA, OCCAR or the Participating nations to place an order either as a result of this dialogue or at a subsequent stage.”

Market research, carried out via the means of targeted requests for information, has revealed that only the MRTT aircraft meets the requirements formulated by the parties. The tanker is to be equipped with two refueling systems – a flying boom as well as underwing pods with hoses, in order to facilitate refueling of a variety of aircraft (even though, so far, the three participating nations are using the F-16 as their main fighter, which is refueled via the rigid boom-based system).

Another important issue which should be noted is the fact that Airbus MRTT is not dedicated solely to refueling tasks, as it is also quite capable transport aircraft. The transport capabilities may be useful in case of strategic airlift or MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) operations.

Image credit: Airbus