The Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA) has granted the Voyager Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) clearance for the A400M using the centreline hose and drogue system, known as the Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU). The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the only MRTT customer to make use of this system, which is used to refuel large probe-equipped aircraft such as the A400M or C295.
This AAR clearance is the culmination of several ground and flight testing campaigns to develop and evaluate the two aircraft and their pairing in many different conditions. Supplementing this work, the Airbus teams have performed intensive engineering analysis and documentation to demonstrate the AAR compatibility between the two aircraft.
"I would love to highlight the great teamwork during the flight test campaign as well as during the entire clearance process both internally and with INTA. It has been a particularly rewarding campaign, as the challenges we faced brought out our best creative instincts"
Gemma Martin Ferrer, FSTA Programme Manager at Airbus Defence and Space
Under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme, Airbus Defence and Space has delivered 14 Voyager aircraft to British aircraft leasing company AirTanker. These tankers are delivered in two military configurations: with two AAR underwing pods – to refuel probe-equipped receivers such as the Eurofighter and the F/A-18 – and with two underwing pods plus the FRU system. The Voyager MRTTs are operated by the RAF under a service contract (a private finance initiative), and can also be rolled into a civil configuration.
The Voyager fleet is cleared by INTA to refuel Tornado, Eurofighter, C-130J Hercules, E-3D Sentry, F-35B Lightning II and now the A400M.
INTA, the technical body of the Spanish Airworthiness Authority (DGAM), is the contractual certification entity of the A330 FSTA and MRTT aircraft. Their certifications are then endorsed by the airworthiness authorities.