An Update on the A330MRTT Tanker: May 2011

06/17/2011: Antonio Caramazana, Head of Airbus Military Derivatives Program, provided an update on the A330MRTT Tanker at the Airbus Trade Media event in mid-May 2011.

The 2010 update can be found in an earlier article on the website http://www.sldinfo.com/?p=9376.  In this article, the basic capabilities of the tanker were highlighted and will not be repeated here. But several key elements of the tanker program presented this May deserve being highlighted in looking forward to the future of the tanker program.

First, the real estate on the aircraft was emphasized.  Because the fuel is carried in the wings, the transport capabilities of the aircraft are significant.  One can carry 300 troops or u to 45000 kg (99000lbs) of payload or carry up to 130 stretchers.Something that was not emphasized is that this space could be for “lease” for other military purposes.  Because the tanker can be configured to be refuelable, a crew rest area could be built so that the tanker can stay up for a significant period of time. http://www.sldinfo.com/?p=1289

If it stays up for a significant period of time other military equipment, such as mission systems could be installed and used in the deployed fleet.  This means for some countries that they would not systems like the P-8 and could simply buy a larger tanker fleet.  India comes to mind in this regard.Second, the A330MRTT remains the multi-mission tanker of choice, the Boeing 767 being a specialized tanker asset.  Saudi Arabia is to acquire 6, the UAE 3, Australia 5 and the United Kingdom 14 tankers, with the UK doing so through the FSTA route.

The Australians, the Saudis and the UAE are all buying a refuelable tanker.  And the Saudis and UAE are basically buying a variant of the Aussie tanker.“Basically, the Saudi tanker is exactly the same Australian MRTT configuration, so the Delta for the certification from Australia into the Saudi is considered very small, we plan to complete before August this year. In the case of the UAE it’s basically the Australian Technical certificate, and we are using small modifications to match with UAE radio communication systems, and data link system.  We are scheduled for the technical certificate of UAE version in December.”He argued that the system is achieving significant maturity as it is delivered to Australia this year.  He discussed various aspects of the testing and maturity of the systems onboard the tanker, and this data is well laid out in the briefing slides, which are included here.

Photo Credit: Airbus Military

Third, he indicated synergy between the commercial production of the A330 and the A330MRTT, which would provide for a robust supply chain and reduced maintenance costs over the life of the product. “When you compare it to the 767, the A330 is more coherent, more capable, and it’s in full operation. We are delivering from Toulouse, 100 aircraft a year. So this means that the aircraft is still selling very well. Currently, there are 1300 aircraft produced and in delivery. This means that this aircraft can be in operation in the commercial area for another 20 to 30 years; and this will provide to the military customers, as well, the flexibility and the affordability of operations, training, and having spares provided over the next thirty years.”

Fourth, the industrial approach starts with launching a platform in Spain with the possibility of completing the project in the customer country.“In terms of industrial solution, the way in which we have strategized the program is to do the prototypes in Spain, and do the remaining platforms in country. For this particular case, we have converted the first MRTT Australian prototype in Madrid, and then the following four aircraft are being converted in Australia. Actually, the aircraft number 2 and aircraft number 3 have been already finished, fully converted in Australia; and aircraft number 4 in about to be finished.”He added with regard to the Aussie program “aircraft number four is being in the final stages of conversion at Qantas. The first flight is expected in August. The conversion process is, by now, very standardized. Aircraft number 5 will be flown this coming summer into Australia, for it’s final conversion in June of next year.”

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—General George Patton Jr.

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