Towards New Task Force Capability with A400Ms and A330MRTTs

Airbus A330 (Credit: )

An A330 MRTT Update

A Discussion With Pablo Quesada Ramos, Head of Market Development, MRTT and other Airbus platforms derivatives

01/19/2011 – Recently, Second Line of Defense received an update from Airbus Military with regard to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) program.  In the course of the conversation, ways of thinking about complementarity between the two new aircraft, the tanker and the airlifter were discussed as well.

The discussion was held with Pablo Quesada Ramos, Head of Market Development, MRTT and other Airbus platforms derivatives. Pablo Quesada was appointed Head of Market Development for Multi Role Tanker Transports and other Airbus platform derivatives in March 2009. Previously, he held several positions in Airbus Military since 2000, including Chief Engineer for the A330 FSTA Program, Chief Engineer for the Airbus Military Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) Program as well as Avionics Systems Engineering leadership for the A310 MRTT and other military programs. Before joining Airbus Military, he undertook Project Management and Systems Engineering Lead responsibilities at several aerospace companies including the former Douglas Aircraft Company, McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Pablo also served at the Spanish Air Force as Second Lieutenant, Engineering Corps. He graduated from the Polytechnic University of Madrid with a Masters degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Airbus A330 (Credit: )Airbus A330 
Credit: EADS


SLD: A couple of months ago, I noticed that you had a press release on military certification for the A330 MRTT.  Could you describe what that means and why that’s an important step?

Pablo Quesada: This means that we have successfully demonstrated the safe operation of all the military systems on the aircraft, including the refueling systems that are going to be delivered to the customer.  There have been more than 1,900 refueling contacts with the MRTT.  More than 1,500, including our A310 boom demonstrator aircraft, for the boom; which is the only new generation boom in service. And almost 1.5 million pounds of fuel have been transferred, during hundreds of sorties, with more than 1,000 flight hours.

What this means is that we have a fully certified, integral system, the solution is low-risk, and is in production right now.  And it meets fully our expectations when we started this program.

SLD: So, the Spanish Civil Aviation authorities have done the certification?

Pablo Quesada: The certification processes for the A330 MRTT include both civil and military certification elements.  The civil certification was achieved at the beginning of the year with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and now we have successfully completed military certification.

The authority in this case is the military certification authority of Spain – called INTA – which has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Australia as the certification authority for the program.

SLD:  Could we move to a discussion of the current state of the Australian program?

Pablo Quesada: 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, as well as all the required qualifications, are complete.

Deliveries will then continue during 2011 and 2012 until we complete the five units that are under contract with the Australians.

SLD: We are discussing a fully operational aircraft?

Pablo Quesada: The objective is to deliver a fully capable aircraft.  After delivery, the Royal Australian Air Force will undertake initial operational test and evaluation. And then the objective is to have the aircraft in service before the end of next year. In parallel to that, some other activities are going on with the readiness of the full flight simulator and other training devices, which are certified and delivered as part of the program, .

SLD: Which devices?  Could you clarify?

Pablo Quesada: The training system is composed of a full-flight and mission simulator (FFMS), air refuelling operator part-task trainer (PTT) and a cockpit integrated procedures trainer (IPT).

SLD: As I remember it, one consideration for the Australian Air Force was that the A330 was already in the Qantas fleet, so that they already had pilots familiar with the A330 who functioned as reserve pilots Was that an important consideration in the selection and now ties in with the training effort for the A330MRTT.

Pablo Quesada: Definitely.  The fact that the local flagship airline Qantas is operating A330s is a great advantage and not only in terms of training, and particularly the possibility of cross training between all the models of the Airbus family,  but also because of the maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities of Qantas, which is a partner in this program.

SLD: The Australians have a refuelable version of the A330MRTT. How do you think they will use the refuelability of this aircraft to their advantage?  How do you think they might think about that?

Pablo Quesada: When the Australians launched their Project Air 5402 to acquire new tankers, they knew from experience they needed a big versatile tanker with plenty of fuel, range and capability.

With the A330 MRTT they got not only plenty of fuel, range and capability, but superior takeoff performance in hot and humid conditions (typical of Northern Australia) and therefore a considerably higher takeoff weight in all RAAF airfields. And the fact that the aircraft is refuelable will allow them, of course, to further extend the reach of their fleet.

SLD: The advantage of a refuelable tanker clearly is that you can land with much less weight, because in the current operation of Air Force tankers, they’re often coming in at 40 percent full, which is a huge waste of ops tempo and ops cost. Explain a little bit about why a refuelable tanker allows you to come in much lighter when you land?

Pablo Quesada: When you have sustained operations, you have fuel in the tanker that has not been used, and it can be passed to another tanker that is keeping on station so that you don’t need to take this fuel back to base. And so you can sustain the operation, and be more effective as well as more efficient.

SLD: Could we talk about potential synergies between the A400M and the A330MRTT? The fact that the tanker holds the fuel in its wings, frees up the space inside the aircraft for cargo or passengers. Conceivably, this could allow flexibility in shaping a tanker-lift task force?

Pablo Quesada: Indeed, but not only in terms of the A400M providing lift and the A330MRTT providing the tanking.  The A400M can be a tanker as well, which can allow an interesting combination of tactical and strategic refueling capabilities over a long distance, which can then operate at low altitudes via the A400M to refuel tactical assets.

In terms of complementarity with the A400M; the A400M is easily configured to refuel a wide range of types from helicopters to fighters, and by taking advantage of the great stability it provides in flight, it is a very effective tanker for lower altitude refueling to the last tactical mile – from a forward operating base, for instance.

In terms of transport, the complementarity of the A400M and A330MRTT is also clear. The A400M is a superb transport aircraft, which combines tactical and strategic capabilities in a single aircraft.  It could be effectively used in long-range deployment missions either with refueling or with stopovers.  But the combination of the operation of the A330MRTT with its true multiple capabilities, plus the tactical capabilities of the A400M will provide a very effective insertion force for either humanitarian or military operations.

Although, either one of them in isolation is also able to fulfill the kind of missions that you are mentioning, the combination of the tactical features of the A400M or the strategic and global reach of the A330 MRTT, could allow one to craft an extremely capable task force.