Three in One Solution!!!

Introduction of Airbus A330 MRTT

The Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) is a three in one solution for the modern air forces. The aircraft is primarily a derivative of the Airbus A330-200 commercial jet. Keeping in view its success as a commercial variant, the aircraft was shortlisted by the UK Ministry of Defence as the next solution for aerial refueling.

The Airbus A330 MRTT is a complete strategic transport aircraft that can be operationalized in multi roles. At present, 46 fully certified aircraft are in use with the six major air forces, including United Kingdom, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France, and Singapore.

Airbus A330 MRTT - Military Variant of A330
An A330 MRTT of the Republic of Singapore Air Force conducting aerial refuelling of an F-15 Eagle
Read more:- Airbus Defence Division

Brief History of Airbus A330 MRTT

In 2004, the UK Ministry of Division decided to replace the aging VC-10 and Tristar aerial tankers with a new one. The idea was to formulate an Air Tanker consortium that could develop an Air-Air Refueller for the British Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The aircraft is generally referred to as the KC-30 in the defense circle. Airbus Defence and Space is the present manufacturer of this Air tanker. The aircraft made its maiden flight in June 2007. Finally, Airbus officially introduced the informal aircraft service in June 2011. Royal Australian Air Force was the first user of the Airbus A330 MRTT (KC-30A).

Airbus A330 MRTT (KC-30A) engaged in a refuelling demonstration with the F-18 Hornets

Manufacturing Phases

The manufacturing of the standard A330-200 commercial aircraft occurs at the Airbus manufacturing facility at Toulouse, France. Subsequently, these commercial variants are delivered from Airbus’ Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France, to the Airbus Military Conversion Centre in Getafe, Spain, to fit the refueling systems, military avionics. Hardware and systems for their dual roles as an air-to-air refueling platform and an air-lifter for troops and cargo.

Buildup Process of an Airbus A330-200 from a Commercial Version to the Air Refuelling Version
Read more: Airbus and its Global Partnerships

Dual Role of the A330 MRTT

Airbus A330 MRTT is offering services to its users in a dual roles. First, in the role of an Air to Air Refueller and secondly, in the role of a strategic transport carrier.

Three in One Solution – Airbus A330 MRTT

Role as a Refueller

As a refueller, the aircraft has the requisite amenities available on board to cater all type of military aircraft with varying types of fuel receptors. It is equipped with the following three types of fuel feeding mechanisms:-

  • Underwing refuelling pod for probe-equipped receiver aircraft
  • Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) for the receptacle equipped receiver aircraft
  • Fuselage Refueling Unit for probe-equipped receiver aircraft

In addition, the aircraft itself has the provision to get itself refuelled from an external air tanker through the Universal Aerial Refuelling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI).

Airbus A330 MRTT is equipped with multiple air to air refuelling options on board for all types of aircraft

Role as a Transport Aircraft

The advantage to A330 is the wide-body fuselage that can be seamlessly translated into any desired configuration. Apart from being an Air tanker, the A330 MRTT can be customized to be used as a transport aircraft. It can accommodate around 300 troops at one time. Similarly, in case of a medical assistance or evacuation mission, the aircraft can be used to accommodate 130 stretchers at one time.

Multi-Role Capability without Compromising Performance

The uniqueness of this variant of the A330-200 is its versatility of operations. Without undergoing any modification, the aircraft can be used for both air-to-air refueling and transport functions. With a twin class configuration, the aircraft can easily accommodate 266 passengers on board.

Moreover, with the ability to carry 111 tonnes / 245000 lbs of fuel in the wings, the aircraft has phenomenal endurance and range even after conducting air to air refueling. It can easily manage a single long-range mission without being fed by any other air-to-air refueller. The A330-200 MRTT has a sufficiently high cruise speed and sizeable internal fuel capacity to fly 4,000km. It can refuel six fighter aircraft en route, and at the same time, it can carry 43 tons of non-fuel cargo. 

Imagine three parallel functions (fuel for aerial refueling, passengers/troops, and MEDeVAC) occurring on a single platform actually make it a potent player in both peace and hostile situations. But, this versatility also makes it vulnerable since the opposite player fully understands its critically important position in a war theatre.

One platform with multiple roles capability

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) Programme

The Airbus A330 MRTT is a part of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft Programme (FSTAP) by the UK Ministry of Defence. The program was initiated to replace the older air tankers held with the British forces. Initially, 14 Air Tankers were approved by the UK Ministry of Defence under this program. On a broader purpose, the program was aimed at the replacement of the old Air tankers fleet. However, on the specific purpose, the idea was to exploit the wide-body fuselage in three-dimensional roles, as mentioned earlier.

Airbus A330 MRTT a Force Multiplier

Airbus A330 MRTT is no wonder a force multiplier like the other versions of the Air tankers in service with different air forces. The concept of a force multiplier is about improving the reachability and range of the airpower. The air power’s unique characteristic of ‘Ubiquity’ (means being present anywhere) is successfully achieved through Air Tankers. These tankers improve the range of the combat fighters to such an incredibly higher level than an ordinary air force cannot patch up equally. A330 MRTT has proven its strategic role during the War in Iraq and the ongoing operations of the NATO forces in the Middle East Region.

Written by guest writer, Faisal Bashir