The new capability for Airbus’ C295 to serve as an aerial tanker brings additional flexibility for this tactical airlifter, further increasing its already-proven versatility and opening additional mission opportunities.
Airbus Defence and Space developed a removable Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) kit for the twin-engine aircraft that utilises a 100-foot-long/30.5-meter-long deployable hose with a «basket» at the end – enabling the transfer of fuel to receiver aircraft equipped with a probe. A remote vision system allows crewmembers aboard the Airbus C295 tanker to monitor refuelling operations from the cargo cabin.
Recent flights to test the kit involved an Airbus-owned C295 that refuelled a C295 from the Spanish Air Force, as well as proximity tests with the Airbus C295 and a fast fighter aircraft – a Spanish Air Force F-18 Hornet.
The Airbus C295’s removable refuelling system – which weighs 1,500 kg/3,307 lbs. – consists of up to three additional fuel tanks, an operator’s console, and the hose drum unit.
Making the Airbus C295 an even more valuable platform
«Customers are increasingly interested in purchasing not just an aircraft, but a versatile platform that can be used for different missions», explained Martín Espinosa, the Airbus Defence and Space engineering technical manager responsible for the Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling test campaign. «The development of the air-to-air refuelling capabilities of the Airbus C295 forms part of this strategic vision».
The Airbus C295’s aerial refuelling capability would be a highly valuable mission-extender for customers using Airbus C295s. These customers include the armed forces of current and future Airbus C295 operators responsible for civil and military Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.
Additionally, it could serve as a cost-effective platform to train fighter pilots in the skills needed for air-to-air refuelling. «The Airbus C295 tanker kit could facilitate training of fighter pilots for missions involving refuelling, or even for AAR services on a lease-by-the-hour basis at a fraction of the cost of heavier aircraft», explained Luis Díaz-Miguel, the Tactical Airlifters Marketing Manager.
Captain Gabiña, a Spanish Air Force pilot involved in the aerial refuelling tests, gave high marks to the Airbus C295 in its new role as tanker. «The degree of difficulty in flight test is always high since it involves performing manoeuvers that no one has done before. It should be noted that due to the positive behaviour of the aircraft, the operation has been good and straightforward», he said.