Machine of Choice

Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT is the front runner in IAF’s tanker programme

A FORCE Report

Madrid, Spain: The EADS’ Airbus Military (AM) A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is all set to win the IAF’s over USD 1.3 billion order for six tankers aircraft. The trials in India are over and the verdict is awaited.

Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT is the front runner in IAF’s tanker programme

In a no-cost-no-commitment mode, the AM had sent its aircraft to Gwalior, the base of Mirage 2000 aircraft. There, as well as at Leh (10,700 feet), the A330 MRTT successfully refueled multiple receivers, including the Su-30MKI for the first time. Earlier, speaking with FORCE during TMB ’12, CEO, AM, Domingo Ureňa-Raso said that: “We will be flexible. We have the best aircraft.” The A330 MRTT, in competition with Russian IL-78 is indeed the better aircraft. Its scores heavily in two areas: its large fuel load capacity of 101 ton fuel, and its dual transport capability. The A330 MRTT can ferry 300 troops, or up to 45,000kg payload, or up to 130 stretchers for medical evacuation, or the desired mix of the three.

Even when the MRTT deal was rejected by India in 2009, the IAF was all praise for A330MRTT. Then, the IAF chief, ACM F.H. Major had said in an interview that the air force after having tendered four years ago, had selected the A330 MRTT as its new tanker, and the matter awaited clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Unfortunately, that did not come about and the defence ministry in a terse note informed the competitors in 2009 that the deal was scrapped and would be re-tendered. There are two theories for this volte face: The finance ministry had put its foot down saying that it had not catered for the deal amount which EADS’ AM was asking. And, the US’ Boeing had to be accommodated into the tanker campaign. Both thoughts sounded plausible. But, it turned out that Boeing did not eventually participate in the re-tender.

This time around, A330 MRTT is a proven aircraft meeting the IAF’s air staff requirements. The IAF has sought both the under-wing pods and FRU in the tankers; Cobham has provided its 905E under-wing pods, and also 805E fuselage refueling unit (FRU). The FRU being much thicker than the wing pods, it can transfer substantive amount of fuel for large aircraft. Thus, while the wing pods are meant for fighters alone, FRU will be used for both fighters and large transport aircraft.

For air-to-air refuelling missions, the A330 MRTT is also provided with the advanced Airbus Military Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), to refuel receptacle-equipped aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35A Lightning II, or even the A330 MRTT itself (when fitted with an Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation). The Airbus Military ARBS is the only new generation boom which allows the fastest fuel transfer, greatly reducing the refuelling operation time. Refuelling can be done at any altitude up to 35,000 ft while cruising at speeds between 180 kt and 300 kt.

The A330 MRTT has won orders from Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom, for a total of 28 aircraft. It is offered with a customised suite of military avionics and a mission system integrated with civil avionics. Its comprehensive survivability package includes a Defensive Aid System, fuel tank inerting system and an armoured cockpit.

The A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) offers unique military strategic air transport as well as air-to-air refuelling capabilities. It is based on the latest medium to long range, twin-aisle, and commercial aircraft of the Airbus fly-by-wire family, the A330. More than 1,000 of these have been sold to some 80 customers and some 650 are operated all around the globe, ensuring easy support and many years of commercial life ahead. The civil version from which the A330 MRTT is derived, the A330-200, already benefits from the most up-to-date design and manufacturing techniques, and integrates the most advanced avionics as well as the proven fly-by-wire control systems which allow total flight envelope protection. Representing the state-of-the-art in its category, the A330-200 has a maximum range of 8,000 nm/ 14,800 km, with a maximum speed of Mach 0.86. It is the primary choice as a platform for a multi role tanker transport, offering the best performance at the lowest investment and costs. It provides the best value for money, with potential for long-term growth as confirmed by its recent successes in the market.



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