A Good Week for the Airbus Military Tanker


2013-02-27 It is a good week for the new A330MRTT tanker.

At the Australian airshow this week, the Royal Australian Air Force will highlight the tanker at the Avalon air show.

The RAAF has 5 new tankers. Credit Photo: Airbus Military

They have also declared the aircraft operational and have 5 aircraft in their fleet.

According to an Airbus Military press release dated February 26, 2013:

 The Australian Department of Defence has declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the Airbus Military KC-30A – its designation for the A330 MRTT.

The announcement was made on the opening day of the Australian International Airshow, Avalon, by Minister for Defence Stephen Smith (pictured above) and Minister for Defence Materiel Mike Kelly.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) accepted the fifth and final MRTT from Airbus Military on 30 November last year. The aircraft was delivered to RAAF Base Amberley in early December 2012.

As well, the RAAF completed the first Australian pilot and Air Refuelling Operator courses at the MRTT training centre (RAAF Base Amberley) in December 2012.

Separately, another global customer has added an operational A330MRTT tanker to its fleet.  In a location far from Australia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has its first new tanker.

In an Airbus Military press release dated February 27, 2013:

The Royal Saudi Air Force has formally inducted into service the Airbus Military A330 MRTT new generation tanker/transport aircraft. Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khaled bin Sultan dedicated the aircraft at a ceremony at Riyadh Airbase on 25 February.

The aircraft is the first of a batch of three that have now been contractually delivered. Deliveries of a second batch of three which were subsequently ordered will begin at the end of 2014.

They will be used to refuel RSAF fighters including the F-15, Typhoon and Tornado. A330 MRTTs have now been delivered to all four current customers – Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and UK.

The Saudi A330MRTT. Credit Photo: Airbus Military

Although far away from each other’s deployments, the two tankers illustrate two key contributions which the tankers can be expected to make to their respective air forces.

For the Aussies, the “tyranny of distance” of the Pacific can be better managed by its air assets and those of its coalition partners with their refueable, long distance tanker.

For the Saudis, the narrow band of air bases on their territory will receive a significant boost in range with a flying air base over their fighters allowing them to redeploy in the region or better support coalition forces operating with them.

Distance and providing an expanded operational air space are two core contributions of a next generation tanker.

The two are connected in another way as well.  Common with fleet wide aircraft, user groups can work together to share operational experience and to provide the basis for domain knowledge guiding the upgrade process.

Airbus Military has such a user group — the MRTT user group — which includes A310 MRTT users such as Canada with those flying the newest tanker, the A330MRTT.

According to a 2011 report on a meeting of the MRTT user group:

The Airbus MRTT User Group (AMUG) 2011 Conference was held on September 14th-15th in Getafe, Spain, where the Airbus A330 MRTT conversion center and design office are located.

Delegates from six different nations (four A330 MRTT customers plus two observer states), gathered to exchange experiences and share best practice.

During the conference, Airbus Military presented several technical briefings centred

on potential future developments for the A330 MRTT and the conclusions of the last A330/A340 safety symposium.

The represented nations shared their experience as MRTT users, such as the A310 MRTT performance in the Libyan campaign, where two aircraft were deployed at Trapani for Operation Mobile, transferring more than 10 million pounds of fuel to a variety of allied receivers (F-18, Rafale, Super-Étendard, Tornado) in 250 sorties.

The A310 MRTT was well endorsed by all the NATO receiver community.


And in a report on the 2012 MRTT user group meeting, the evolution of the group’s agenda was noted.

The 2nd annual meeting of the Airbus MRTT Users Group (AMUG) was held on 26 and 27 September in Getafe, Spain with significant attendance from the users and 50 representatives.

A key part of the meeting was the presentation of the national reports from each customer with details of their operations and issues. Airbus Military presented several topics of interest including new developments within the MRTT system, the military parts pool, ARO training evolution, details on the MRTT Electronic Flight Bag, and A330 MRTT product development.