Tag Archives: A330 MRTT

Automatic Refuelling

Airbus has achieved the first ever fully automatic Air-to-Air Refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign, conducted earlier in the year over the Atlantic Ocean, involved an Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with the Airbus A3R solution, with an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver.

Airbus achieves world’s first fully automatic refuelling contacts

This milestone is part of the industrialisation phase of A3R systems ahead of its implementation in the A330 MRTT tanker development.

The campaign achieved a total of 45 flight test hours and 120 dry contacts with the A3R system, covering the whole aerial refuelling envelope, as the F-16 and MRTT consolidate the maturity and capabilities of the development at this stage. The certification phase will start in 2021.

Didier Plantecoste, Airbus Head of Tanker and Derivatives Programmes, said: «The achievement of this key milestone for the A3R programme highlights the A330 MRTT’s excellent capability roadmap development and once more confirms that our tanker is the world’s reference for present and future refuelling operations. Our special thanks go to the Portuguese Air Force for their continued support and help on this crucial development».

The A3R system requires no additional equipment on the receiver aircraft and is intended to reduce Air Refuelling Operator (ARO) workload, improve safety and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling transfer in operational conditions, helping maximise aerial superiority. The goal for the A3R system is to develop technologies that will reach fully autonomous capabilities.

Once the system is activated by the ARO, the A3R flies the boom automatically and keeps the alignment between the boom tip and the receiver receptacle with an accuracy of a couple of centimeters; the proper alignment and the receiver stability is checked in real-time to keep a safe distance between the boom and the receiver and also to determine the optimum moment to extend the telescopic beam to achieve the connection with the receiver. At this point, the fuel transfer is initiated to fill up the receiver aircraft and once completed and the disconnection is commanded, the boom is cleared away from the receiver by retracting the telescopic beam and flying the boom away to keep a safe separation distance. During this process, the ARO simply monitors the operation.

Multi-Role Tanker

Airbus Defence and Space has received a firm order from the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) for a further three A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

France orders three more Airbus A330 MRTT tankers
France orders three more Airbus A330 MRTT tankers

The aircraft, known as Phénix in French service, constitute the third and final tranche of the multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs signed by the French Ministry of Defence in 2014.

The first of the fleet was formally handed over in October and the remainder will be delivered by the end of 2023 under an accelerated timescale requested by France.

In French service the A330 MRTT will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refuelling Boom System and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. The aircraft can be configured in a variety of layouts carrying up to 272 passengers as well as medevac arrangements including the French MORPHEE (MOdule de Réanimation Pour Haute Elongation d’Evacuation, or Resuscitation Module for High Elongation Evacuation) intensive care module carrying up to ten patients as well as 88 passengers.

The combat-proven A330 MRTT has been ordered by 12 nations which have now placed firm orders for 60 aircraft, of which 34 have been delivered.

The attached photo shows the first delivered Phénix.

First Korean Tanker

Busan, South Korea, 12th November 2018: The first Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has landed in Gimhae Air Base in Busan, South Korea for its acceptance tests.

A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off
A330 MRTT Republic of Korea Air Force Take Off

The aircraft, which was piloted by a joint Airbus and ROKAF crew, arrived in South Korea after a ferry flight from the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Getafe, Spain, with a stop in Vancouver, Canada.

It will now undergo ground and flight tests in Gimhae. The ROKAF will be supported by a team from Airbus, which will be based in South Korea for the duration of the tests until the aircraft is officially handed over to the customer. The photo shows the aircraft leaving Getafe.

The A330 MRTT can carry up to 111 tonnes of fuel; this is the highest capacity of all tanker aircraft, even those which have additional fuel tanks in the cargo deck. It has the capacity of offloading 50,000 kg of fuel to a broad range of receivers during a 4-hour loitering mission at over 1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km from its take-off point.

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 UARRSI), the A330 MRTT is provided with the advanced Airbus Defence & Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). Its fast fuel flow rate (up to a maximum of 3,600 kg/min – 1,200 US gal/min) makes the ARBS the most capable new generation flight proven Boom available. Excellent handling qualities are provided for the operation of the ARBS, rated as such by independent assessments.

Under-wing Pods provide simultaneous Hose and Drogue refuelling at high fuel offload rate (1,300 kg/min – 420 US gal/min), allowing receivers to minimise refuelling time and increase operation efficiency. The Cobham 905E Under-Wing Pods, currently in service and proven in operation, enable the A330 MRTT to refuel any NATO or allied Probe-equipped receivers such as the Eurofighter, the Tornado, the Jaguar, the F/A18 Hornet or the Sukhoi 30. The A330 MRTT physical compatibility with receivers across the world is established, demonstrated and certified to allow coalition interoperability. The 900 series Wing-Pods incorporate a digitally controlled and electrically operated Hose drum unit, optimizing reliability and maintainability.

Large probe-equipped aircraft such as the A400M or C295, can be refuelled, at a high fuel offload rate of 1,800 kg/min – 600 US gal/min via the Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU). The FRU, a removable Hose and Drogue unit, allows refuelling receivers with a different fuel type. This option assures NATO fuel type to be transferred from Wing-Pods, while an alternative fuel type is dispensed from the FRU. Those Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) systems are controlled from an advanced Fuel Operator Console that is positioned in the cockpit, increasing the safety of the AAR operation by ensuring a timely and synchronized reaction of the flight crew to unexpected events. It also features an Enhanced Vision System, a high definition 2D/3D digital system that enables performing day and night refuelling and can provide high resolution video recording of the refuelling operations.