The Indian Government to Join the A330MRTT Global Tanker Family



Recently, the Indian government announced that Airbus Military was its preferred supplier for a new tanker.

We will look soon at the possible impacts of a deployed fleet of A330MRTTs on the Indian Air Force and Navy as well as the ability of the Indians to sustain power projection in the region.

The Airbus Military announcement dated January 7, 2013 follows:

Airbus Military is pleased to confirm that it has been selected by the Government of India as the preferred bidder to supply its A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport to the Indian Air Force (IAF). 

The decision follows a lengthy and thorough selection process including the completion of extensive flight demonstrations in India by the A330 MRTT during which the aircraft refuelled multiple types of IAF fighters and operated from the high-altitude IAF base at Leh. 

Detailed negotiations will now begin which it is expected will lead to the award of a final production contract for an envisaged six aircraft in 2013. 

RAAF A330 MRTT (KC-30A) refuelling 2 F-18 Hornets through wing pods. Credit: Airbus Military

Airbus Military CEO Domingo Ureña Raso said: “We are grateful for the confidence shown in our company by the Government of India and the Indian Air Force, and we appreciate the detailed and fair appraisal of the competing products which they have conducted. This has been a long and tough competition and we are honoured to have been selected. 

“We are fully committed to the next stage of the negotiations, and ultimately to providing the IAF with what is unquestionably the most advanced tanker/transport aircraft flying and certified today.” 

India´s selection of the A330 MRTT makes it the fifth nation to commit to the type following Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom which have ordered a total of 28 aircraft.

Suggestive of what is coming is the Australian case.  Australia like India has a wide area to cover with its air assets.  Having a flexible airborne support infrastructure allows greater reach and sustainability to air operations.

In 2010, in an article by Kym Bergmann in The Australian, the impact of the tanker on the Australian military was forecast as follows:

FOR an investment of almost $2 billion — relatively modest by defense standards — Australia is about to acquire five aircraft that will dramatically boost the capability of the defense forces, and the RAAF in particular. 

The aircraft are the Airbus-built multi-role tanker transports, which will give the air force unprecedented regional reach. 

Combining those with six airborne early warning and control aircraft plus 24 Super Hornets — as well as our ageing but upgraded 71 Classic Hornets — Australia will continue to be the dominant air power in Southeast Asia and beyond.

At the moment the RAAF’s combat aircraft can only fly for as long and as far as a single load of fuel will take them. For a Classic Hornet that is 2000km with very limited weaponry. 

That is about to change with the reintroduction of aerial in-flight refueling. Unclassified figures show that a single tanker aircraft could support four Hornets over a range of 6500km and still have fuel to spare. That indicative range is enough for Classic Hornets flying from Tindal in the Northern Territory to reach Sri Lanka, Beijing or Tokyo. 

The figures are even more impressive for the Super Hornets, which have greater range. 

Add on the additional striking distance provided by modern stand-off weapons and you get some idea of what the five tankers will do for the combat power of the RAAF.

We will look later this month at such projected impacts on Indian air capabilities.