In the highly-competitive military marketplace, Airbus’ A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) has distinguished itself as the benchmark in its category – winning the majority of competitions in Europe, Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.
Airbus has based the A330 MRTT on its successful A330-200 jetliner. Following the assembly on the commercial production line in Toulouse, France, aircraft are flown to the company’s Getafe, Spain conversion centre, where the refuelling systems and military avionics are installed.
Serving three missions with one capable platform, the A330 MRTT can carry up to 111 tonnes of fuel in the aerial refuelling mission – the highest capacity of any tanker aircraft. A key feature is the centre-line Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), which is fly-by-wire controlled and delivers a fast fuel flow rate – the most capable new-generation, flight-proven boom available. The aircraft also can be equipped with pods under each wing for hose and drogue refuelling, as well as an under-fuselage hose and drogue unit.
Requiring no reconfiguration, the A330 MRTT also serves as an efficient transport aircraft, carrying passengers on the main deck and cargo in the lower lobe. Seating capacity is up to 300 passengers on the main deck, which also can be arranged in a medical evacuation configuration that accommodates 40 stretchers and 20 seats for medical staff, along with 100 passengers. The lower lobe – which accommodates up to 37 tonnes of cargo, can be loaded with 27 LD3 containers or eight military pallets.
With these attributes, orders have been booked for a total of more than 60 A330 MRTTs by the following customers: Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Multi-role Tanker Transport programme (which brings together Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg).
Airbus predecessor company EADS won a hard-fought competition in 2008 for U.S. Air Force’s new-generation refuelling aircraft, only to have the A330 MRTT’s selection overturned when the incumbent U.S. supplier protested. Another competitive round was organised, with the contract subsequently awarded to the U.S. competitor in 2011. Airbus continues to believe in the A330 MRTT’s value for the U.S., and in November 2018 it announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to offer A330 MRTT-based services in ways that support the country’s aerial-refuelling needs, such as a fee-for-service structure.