The UAE Receives Its First New Tanker



The UAE has ordered three A330MRTT tankers.

It has now received its first one.

According to a comment made to Second Line of Defense by a senior USAF officer (retired) who has worked closely with the UAE:

“They should consider buying a larger fleet of tankers, in order to provide for the kind of airborne infrastructure which they will need for strategic depth and greater capability to work with allies, including the USAF.”

UAE Mirage being refueled by A330MRTT tanker. Credit Photo: Airbus Military

What the very senior USAF officer had in mind was the analysis, which we provided late last year of the potential impact of a tanker fleet on airborne operations in the Gulf.

With the fuel carried in the wings, the large deck of the A330 can be used to host a variety of air support capabilities: routers, sensors, communication nodes, etc. 

Such a configuration along with the fuel re-supply capabilities of the A330 tanker makes this a flying air operational support asset. 

If the model selected is similar to the model downselected initially by the USAF, it is refuelable in flight. 

With the space available in the aircraft – again because of the fact that the fuel for refueling is carried in the wings – a crew rest area can be provided. 

This means that the air tankers can stay aloft for a significant period of time as the refuelers are themselves refueled.

This in turn means that the refueling aircraft as a fleet can have a strategic impact.Once the planes are airborne and they have access to refuelers for their own operational autonomy, the fleet can tank a variety of national or coalition partners operating from dispersed or diverse airfields. 

And the discretion possible airborne can allow nations to tank a variety of coalition partners, some of whom might not be favorite candidates if seen on the ground. 

Nowhere is this more important than in areas with very constricted geography.

And the GCC states operate with very little strategic depth nation by nation.

According to a February 6, 2013 Airbus Military press release:

Airbus Military has delivered the first of three new generation A330 MRTT multi-role tanker transport aircraft ordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The handover of the world´s most advanced air-to-air tanker means that the type has now been delivered to all four current customers – Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the United Kingdom. 

Converted from an Airbus A330 commercial passenger jet by Airbus Military at Getafe near Madrid, the aircraft will serve with the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. The remaining two aircraft are at an advanced stage of conversion and will be delivered by mid-2013. 

Airbus Military Vice President Derivative Programs, Antonio Caramazana said: “It is a great pleasure to see  the A330 MRTT now flying in the UAE Air Force and Air Defense colors. We are confident that it will greatly enhance the capability of the UAE Air Force and contribute to the stability of the Gulf region.” 

In UAE service the A330 MRTT is equipped with two underwing refueling pods, the fly-by wire Airbus Military Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS), and a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) enabling it to be refueled from another tanker. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and has 256 passenger seats. 

The aircraft is capable of conducting refueling operations with UAE Air Force and Air Defense fighters such as the Mirage 2000 and F-16.