The Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport is poised to be delivered to three different customers in 2011, following a flurry of activities which ended 2010, and with its position cemented as the only tanker offered in the US Air Force's KC-X tanker competition that is real, certified, flying and refuelling today.
In a major exercise with the Portuguese Air Force on three days in November, 25 F-16A/B pilots underwent air-to-air refuelling training, conducting more than 70 dry and wet contacts in different weapons configurations, and expressing their satisfaction with the refuelling systems including the proven Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS).
The operation came soon after the A330 MRTT's first real-life refuelling mission involving two PoAF F-16s which were airborne when their home base of Monte Real was suddenly closed because of an emergency. The fighters, call-signs Tiger 71 and Tiger 72, had been conducting trials with the A330 MRTT and were accepted back to receive more fuel, enabling them to stay airborne until the end of the emergency and avoid having to divert to another airfield.
On 13th December the A330 MRTT Future Strategic Transport Aircraft (FSTA) for the UK's Royal Air Force successfully completed a series of dry contacts for the first time, performing simulated refuelling with a F-18 fighter using the FSTA's Fuselage Refuelling Unit. The Fuselage Refuelling Unit is the same that is offered on the EADS North America KC-45, the configuration of the A330 MRTT that is being offered to the U.S. Air Force.
This latest activity follows the commencement of FSTA certification and qualification flight-testing on 24th November at the start of a process that will lead to eventual certification of the aircraft by Spanish military certification authority INTA. First delivery is due in late 2011.
The aerodynamic modifications made to the basic A330-200 design in service with airlines around the world have also been demonstrated to comply with the most recent noise requirements
The delivery process of the first aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force is on-going. Final hand-over will take place once the lengthy review of all related documentation and activities are complete.
The second aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force recently entered the conversion process in Madrid and the first is progressing smoothly towards delivery in 2011.
The first aircraft for the United Arab Emirates has completed its structural conversion and is now undergoing systems installation in preparation for delivery in 2012.
Head of Airbus Military Derivatives Antonio Caramazana said: "2010 has been an outstanding year for the A330 MRTT which has clearly demonstrated the robustness and maturity of the conversion process as well as the performance of the aircraft exactly as promised. We look forward with great excitement to delivering aircraft to our customers and see them beginning operations next year.
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