Airbus A330 MRTT
|A330 MRTT / KC-30A|
|Based on the Airbus A330 airliner, a RAAF KC-30 refuels a USAF F-16|
|Role||Aerial refuelling and transport|
|Manufacturer||Airbus Defence and Space|
|First flight||15 June 2007|
|Introduction||1 June 2011|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force|
Royal Saudi Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
United Arab Emirates Air Force
|Number built||42 as of 31 January 2020|
|Developed from||Airbus A330|
|Variants||EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45|
A total of 12 nations have placed firm orders for approximately 60 aircraft, of which 42 had been delivered by 31 January 2020.
Design and development
The Airbus A330 MRTT is a military derivative of the A330-200 airliner. It is designed as a dual-role air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft. For air-to-air refuelling missions the A330 MRTT can be equipped with a combination of any of the following systems:
- Refuelling other aircraft
- Being refuelled
- Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) for self in-flight refuelling.
The A330 MRTT has a maximum fuel capacity of 111,000 kg (245,000 lb) without the use of additional fuel tanks, which leaves space for the carriage of 45,000 kg (99,000 lb) of additional cargo. The A330 MRTT's wing has common structure with the four-engine A340-200/-300 with reinforced mounting locations and provision for fuel piping for the A340's outboard engines. The A330 MRTT's wing therefore requires little modification for use of these hardpoints for the wing refuelling pods.
The A330 MRTT cabin can be modified to carry up to 380 passengers in a single class configuration, allowing a complete range of configurations from maximised troop transport to complex customisation suitable for VIP and guest missions. Available configurations include 300 passengers in a single class and 266 passengers in two classes. The A330 MRTT can also be configured to perform Medical Evacuation (Medevac) missions; up to 130 standard stretchers can be carried. The main deck cargo configuration allows carriage of standard commercial containers and pallets, military, ISO and NATO pallets (including seats) and containers, and military equipment and other large items which are loaded through a cargo door. Like the A330-200, the A330 MRTT includes two lower deck cargo compartments (forward and aft) and a bulk area capability. The cargo hold has been modified to be able to transport up to 8 military pallets in addition to civilian unit load device (ULD).
An optional crew rest compartment (CRC), located in the forward cabin can be installed for a spare crew to increase time available for a mission. The passenger cabin of the A330 MRTT can be provided with a set of removable airstairs to enable embarkation and disembarkation when airbridges or ground support equipment are not available.
Standard commercial A330-200s are delivered from Airbus Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France to Airbus Military Conversion Centre in Getafe, Spain for fitting of refuelling systems and military avionics. The tanker was certified by Spanish authorities in October 2010. It was first delivered to Australia on 1 June 2011. Qantas Defence Services converted the remaining four A330-200s at its Brisbane Airport facility on behalf of EADS for the Royal Australian Air Force.
On 30 September 2016, Airbus Defence and Space completed the first flight of the new standard A330 MRTT. The new standard features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements for a 1% fuel-burn reduction, upgraded avionics computers, and enhanced military systems. The first delivery is planned for 2018.
The Airbus/Saab team proposed an A330-based Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) ("AWACS") variant with Saab's Erieye radar to the UK's Ministry of Defence in 2018 for the replacement of its E-3D fleet.
The A330 MRTT has been ordered by Australia, France, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and by NATO in a multi-Nation deal. Australia was the launch customer for the A330 MRTT.
Designated as KC-30A, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330 MRTTs are equipped with both an Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and two Cobham 905E under-wing refuelling pods. The aircraft are powered by two General Electric CF6-80E1A3 engines. Australia initially arranged to procure four aircraft with an option to obtain a fifth; this option for a fifth aircraft was exercised to allow for two simultaneous deployments of two aircraft, the fifth being for contingency coverage. Australian KC-30A are operated by No. 33 Squadron RAAF based at RAAF Base Amberley. Australia's aircraft are configured for 270 passengers plus 34,000 kilograms of cargo.
In 2005, the RAAF expected deliveries to begin in 2008 and end in 2010. Deliveries fell two years behind schedule, partly due to delays in developing the boom. On 30 May 2011, KC-30A A39-003, the third converted A330, arrived at RAAF Base Amberley and was formally handed over on 1 June 2011. The second A330 conversion, A39-002 was handed over to the RAAF on 22 June 2011. On 3 December 2012, the fifth KC-30A was delivered to the RAAF. In July 2013, there were reportedly delays to the KC-30A's full service entry due to refuelling system issues, including the hose-and-drogue system passing too much fuel.
In August 2013, the KC-30A made its debut as a VIP transport, ferrying Prime Minister Rudd and an entourage to Al Minhad Air Base, United Arab Emirates. In August 2014, Defence Minister David Johnston announced the intention to buy two more KC-30As, one with a VIP layout for the Prime Minister's use. In July 2015, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews announced the order of two additional KC-30s, based on A330-200s previously operated by Qantas, to be delivered in 2018. In 2016, it was decided to add a "modest" VIP fitout, including seating, meeting spaces and communication facilities, to a single KC-30, which remains primarily used as a tanker. In 2015, the ordering of a sixth and seventh KC-30A was announced by the Australian government. The 2016 Defence White Paper noted a possible rise in the fleet's size to nine to support new RAAF aircraft like the P-8A Poseidon.
On 22 September 2014, the RAAF deployed an Air Task Group, including F/A-18F Super Hornets, a KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft, to Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, as part of a coalition to combat Islamic State forces in Iraq. The KC-30 started operations days after arriving in the UAE, refueling coalition aircraft over Iraq. On 6 October 2014, the RAAF made their first combat missions over Iraq via two Super Hornets supported by the KC-30.
In January 2004, the UK Ministry of Defence announced the selection of an A330 MRTT variant to provide tanking service for the RAF for the next 30 years under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme, replacing the RAF's TriStar and VC10 tankers. The Ministry of Defence entered negotiations with the EADS-led AirTanker consortium. On 27 March 2008, a deal was signed to lease 14 aircraft under a private finance initiative arrangement with AirTanker, with the first to enter service in 2011. The annual cost of the service, including military personnel costs is around £450 million for a delivery of 18,000 flying hours a rate of approximately £25,000 per hour. There are two versions, designated Voyager KC2 and Voyager KC3; the former is fitted with two Cobham 905E under-wing refuelling pods, the latter with a Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU) in addition to the under-wing pods; none are fitted with the Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). All Voyagers are powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines.
By May 2014, nine aircraft had been delivered, completing the "core fleet". Further deliveries were for a "surge capability", available to the RAF when needed, but otherwise available to AirTanker for "release to the civil market, less its military equipment or to partner nations in a military capacity with the MoD's agreement". By 14 March 2016, all 14 Voyagers had been delivered. In November 2015, it was announced that an RAF A330 MRTT would be refitted to carry government ministers and members of the Royal Family on official visits. The refit would cost £10m but would save around £775,000 annually compared to chartering flights. The aircraft, nicknamed "Cam Force One" by some in the media (like the "Air Force One" call sign for the US President's transport), is fitted with 158 seats. It entered service on 6 May 2016, the then Prime Minister David Cameron made his first flight on it to attend the 2016 Warsaw summit. In June 2020, the government announced that the VIP fitted aircraft would receive a new livery based on the colours of the Union Flag, intended "to promote Britain globally" following the country's departure from the European Union. Although undertaken as part of the aircraft's routine maintenance period, the cost of the new livery was announced at approximately £900,000, with it being seen as a response to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who had stated while Foreign Secretary of his dislike of the standard two-tone grey livery. The new livery led to criticism from some quarters, with opposition politicians suggesting the cost would have been better spent in other areas during the Covid-19 pandemic, while some military experts stated that its usefulness as a military asset could be compromised.
Because the RAF's Voyagers are only capable of probe-and-drogue refueling, they are unable to refuel current or future RAF aircraft that are fitted solely for flying boom refueling, including the RC-135 Rivet Joint, C-17 Globemaster, E-7 Wedgetail and P-8 Poseidon. In April 2016, the RAF stated its interest in the idea of fitting a boom to some of the Voyager fleet, bringing its aircraft into line with other A330 MRTT operators. Fitting a boom would add flexibility to the RAF Voyager fleet, not only allowing operation with those types in the RAF not fitted for probe and drogue but for other air forces that operate boom refueled aircraft.
United Arab Emirates
In 2007, the United Arab Emirates announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to purchase three A330 MRTT. A contract was signed with the UAE in February 2008. The first UAE A330 MRTT was delivered on 6 February 2013. The remaining two were delivered by 6 August 2013. The UAE tankers are equipped with both an ARBS and two Cobham 905E under-wing refuelling pods; these ARBS units include a secondary boom hoist developed for the UAE. This system permits the boom to be retracted, even in the event of a primary boom retraction system failure. The UAE tankers are fitted with Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines.
Saudi Arabia finalised an agreement to purchase three A330 MRTT equipped with both an Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and two Cobham 905E under-wing refuelling pods, on 3 January 2008. In July 2009 it was announced that Saudi Arabia ordered three additional A330 MRTT tankers. RSAF chose the General Electric CF6-80 to power its A330 MRTTs.
On 25 February 2013, the first A330 MRTT entered operational use. Three more A330 MRTTs have been ordered in a follow-on contract, delivery was expected in late 2014. By 31 August 2013, three had been delivered.
In February 2012, Singapore expressed interest in the A330 MRTT to replace its four KC-135s. In February 2014, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) selected the A330 MRTT over the Boeing KC-46, and signed for six aircraft. They are fitted with Trent 772B engines and configured for a maximum capacity of 266 passengers or 37,000 kilograms (82,000 lb) of cargo, as well as a maximum fuel weight of 111,000 kilograms (245,000 lb).
On 30 June 2015, South Korea selected the A330 MRTT; the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) planned to induct four tankers by 2020. The first A330 MRTT was delivered on 12 November 2018, after a ferry flight from Airbus' final assembly line in Getafe, Spain to South Korea, piloted by a joint Airbus and ROKAF crew. Designated KC-330 Cygnus, it extends the endurance of ROKAF aircraft over remote areas such as Dokdo, Ieodo, and the North Pyongyang-Wonsan Line, as well as increase its ability to deploy overseas for international operations. South Korea received its first A330 MRTT in January 2019, and its second A330 MRTT in March 2019.
In November 2011, France expressed interest in acquiring 14 A330 MRTTs to replace its KC-135 tankers, A340 and A310 transports; one year later, it was announced that 14 would be ordered in 2013. In May 2013, Airbus made an offer for 12 to 14 A330 MRTTs to France. On 20 February 2014, the French Chief of Staff stated that 12 A330 MRTTs would be acquired in two batches, an initial standard configuration with a boom and wing refuelling pods and later with a cargo door and SATCOM. On 15 December 2015, France ordered eight A330 MRTTs, constituting the second tranche of a multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs, worth €3 billion ($3.3 billion), signed by the French Ministry of Defence in November 2014. Initial deliveries were expected in 2018, with further handovers of one or two per year until 2025.
In September 2018, the Direction générale de l'armement (DGA) announced plans to speed up delivery of the A330 MRTT Phénix, as it is known in French service, by two years, planning for the last of 12 aircraft to be delivered in 2023 rather than 2025. In addition, the DGA stated that the fleet would be later increased to 15 aircraft. Later in September, the French Air Force received the first A330 MRTT as per the existing timetable. On 13 December 2018, France ordered another three A330 MRTTs of a third tranche of the multi-year contract; these are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with the ARBS and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods.
Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet
In November 2011, the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board and European Defence Ministers endorsed air-to-air refuelling (AAR) as one of the initial Pooling and Sharing initiatives after recognising the need for a greater AAR capability as it was heavily reliant on US Air Force tanker aircraft. In November 2012, the Ministers of Defence of 10 EDA member states (the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Norway) signed a letter of intent to jointly procure a multi-role tanker transport. The Netherlands was designated leader of the newly launched Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) project, which was launched with the aim of creating an initial European AAR capability by 2020. In 2013, the Netherlands expressed interest in the A330 MRTT to replace its two KDC-10 aircraft; a study was launched on standardising European AAR capability in cooperation with other MFF members.
In December 2014, following a request for information, the bulk of the MMF member states entered negotiations with Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) to procure a A330 MRTT fleet to be owned by NATO while OCCAR and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency would support the procurement process. This was accompanied by a request for proposals sent to ADS by OCCAR for two A330 MRTTs with options for six more; at this point, only the Netherlands and Luxembourg were full MMF members. It was decided to base these A330 MRTTs at Eindhoven Airbase, which has the noise clearance to operate up to eight A330 MRTTs. In July 2016, the Netherlands and Luxembourg jointly ordered the first two A330 MRTTs under the MMF programme, the first scheduled for delivery by 2020. In June 2017, Germany and Norway became MMF members, pledging to order five more aircraft plus options for a further four. On 26 September 2017, ADS announced receipt of a firm order from OCCAR for five additional tankers.
The Belgian Ministry of Defence stated the intent to buy one A330 MRTT in a 2015 defence plan. The Belgian government investigated the €840 million plan, as well as the option of equipping Belgium's seven A400M with under-wing pods; a combined Belgian A330 MRTT and A400M fleet would cost up to €1 billion. On 22 December 2017, Belgium signed a contract for one A330 MRTT, to be based at Eindhoven Airbase, bringing the total MMF fleet to 8 aircraft. and officially joined the program on 14 February 2018.
On 19 December 2017, NATO partnered with Israel's Elbit Systems to provide J-Music electronic countermeasures systems to the fleet. Having considered joining the initiative for some time, the Czech Republic joined as the sixth member during October 2019.
Out of the total of 8 aircraft currently on order, 5 will be based at Eindhoven Air Base and 3 at Cologne Bonn Airport. On 30 June 2020, Airbus delivered the first of eight A330 MRTT aircraft.
In January 2018, Indonesian Air Force (IAF) officials were reportedly studying both the A330 MRTT and Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aerial refuelling aircraft for a future modernisation programme, expected to take place after the Airbus A400M Atlas programme completes. The IAF is said to compare the aircraft on compatibility with its current aircraft, life-cycle costs, interoperability with current and future assets, and potential funding and technology transfer options with state-owned aircraft manufacturer Indonesian Aerospace.
The A330 MRTT and Il-78 competed for a tender floated in 2006 by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) for six refuellers to extend the Indian Air Force's (IAF) operating radius. In May 2009, India chose the A330 MRTT over the Il-78. However, in January 2010, the government cancelled the order citing high cost as the reason, reportedly against the IAF's wishes. After rebidding, India selected Airbus as its "preferred vendor" in November 2012. In January 2013, India reportedly chose the A330 MRTT as the "preferred bid".
In 2016, Airbus said India's MoD had terminated the six-year-old US$2 billion tender for six multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft. An Airbus official stated that the company "will engage with the Indian government in finding a way to bring the A330 MRTT's capabilities to the IAF." In January 2018, the IAF re-launched its air-to-air refueling procurement programme, sending out a request for information (RFI) to Airbus, Boeing and Ilyushin. Both Airbus and Boeing responded to the RFI, while Ilyushin was disqualified as the official requirement is for an aircraft with two turbofan engines. In 2017 India announced plans for purchasing six airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) ("AWACS") aircraft that can also perform aerial refuelling, with the first two AEW&C airplanes awaiting approval by Cabinet in 2020.
Spain's Ministry of Defence stated that it is to acquire two A330 MRTT in 2016 to replace its ageing Boeing 707 tankers. In 2014, Spain's Secretary of State for Defence, stated that the Ministry of Defence began negotiations with Airbus Defence and Space about swapping their excess order for 13 Airbus A400Ms for an undisclosed number of Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft. Airbus Defence and Space commercial director said that although being a difficult issue, the company will cooperate with Spain in order to find possible solutions to reach an agreement. As of September 2018, Spain is still considering the option but has yet to make a decision.
Sweden was reportedly considering joining the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet program.
The US Air Force (USAF) ran a procurement program to replace around 100 of their oldest KC-135E Stratotankers, i.e., initially excluding the more common updated KC-135R variant. EADS offered the A330 MRTT. The Boeing KC-767 was selected in 2002; however the USAF cancelled the KC-767 order upon the uncovering of illegal manipulation and corrupt practices during the competition.
In 2006, the USAF released a new request for proposal (RFP) for a tanker aircraft, which was updated in January 2007, to the KC-X RFP, one of three acquisition programs that are intended to replace the entire KC-135 fleet. The A330 MRTT was proposed again by EADS and Northrop Grumman as the KC-30. It again competed against the Boeing KC-767, a smaller and less expensive aircraft with less fuel and cargo capability. Northrop Grumman and EADS announced plans to assemble the aircraft at a new facility in Mobile, Alabama, which would also build A330 freighters. On 29 February 2008, the USAF announced the selection of the KC-30 as the KC-135 replacement, and was designated KC-45A. On 18 June 2008, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) upheld a protest by Boeing on the contract's award to Northrop Grumman and EADS over process improprieties. This left the status of the KC-45A in doubt, because the GAO decision required the USAF to rebid the contract.
On 24 September 2009, the USAF began the first steps in the new round of bids, with a clearer set of criteria. On 8 March 2010, Northrop Grumman withdrew from the bidding process, asserting that the new criteria were skewed in favour of Boeing's offering. On 20 April 2010, EADS announced it was re-entering the competition on a stand-alone basis and intended to enter a bid with the KC-45, still intending for Mobile to be the final assembly site. On 24 February 2011, the USAF announced that the development contract had been awarded to Boeing. William J. Lynn III, the deputy defence secretary, said Boeing was "the clear winner" under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each tanker plane met needs and the costs of operating them over 40 years.
- A330 MRTT
- An Airbus A330-200 converted by Airbus Military for air-refuelling duties.
- Australian designation for an A330 MRTT with two under-wing refuelling pods and an Aerial Refuelling Boom System.
- United States Air Force designation for an A330 MRTT with two under-wing refuelling pods and an Aerial Refuelling Boom System, order cancelled.
- Voyager KC2
- Royal Air Force designation for an A330 MRTT with two Cobham 905 under-wing pods, primarily used for refuelling fast jets.
- Voyager KC3
- Royal Air Force designation for an A330 MRTT with two under-wing pods and a "Cobham Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU)" for a centreline refuelling capability, primarily used for refuelling large aircraft.
A total of 60 aircraft on order with 42 delivered as of 31 January 2020.
- Belgian Air Force – 1 aircraft on order, to be owned by NATO as part of the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF).
- Luftwaffe – 4 aircraft on order, to be owned by NATO as part of the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF).
- Royal Netherlands Air Force – 2 aircraft on order, to be owned by NATO as part of the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF).
- Royal Norwegian Air Force – 1 aircraft on order, to be owned by NATO as part of the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF).
- Royal Air Force – 14 delivered (7 × KC2, 5 × KC3 + 2 fitted for KC3). Aircraft owned by AirTanker who operate or wet-lease out aircraft not required by RAF tasking.
Accidents and incidents
On 19 January 2011, an air refuelling accident occurred between a boom equipped A330 MRTT and a Portuguese Air Force General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal. Early reports indicate that the boom broke off at the aft end of the boom near the F-16's receptacle which caused the boom to recoil into the underside of the A330 MRTT. The boom then became uncontrollable and oscillated until it broke off the boom assembly at the pivot point. Both aircraft were damaged, but landed safely. The A330 MRTT involved was an Airbus test aircraft destined for the RAAF operated by an Airbus crew. At the time of the incident, Airbus had not begun deliveries.
On 10 September 2012, an A330 MRTT's refuelling boom became detached in flight at an altitude of 27,000 ft (8,200 m) in Spanish airspace. The boom separated cleanly at a mechanical joint and fell to the ground, while the tanker landed safely in Getafe without any injuries. The incident was attributed to a conflict between the backup boom hoist (fitted to the UAE-destined A330 MRTTs) and the primary boom retraction mechanism, and was attributable to the testing being conducted. Airbus later explained that the malfunction was not possible under ordinary operating conditions, and that procedures had been designed to avoid similar incidents in the future. Following the incident, INTA, the Spanish regulatory authority, issued precautionary restrictions to other users of boom-equipped A330s.
- Crew: 3: 2 pilots, 1 AAR operator
- Capacity: Various passenger configurations are available including 291 passengers (United Kingdom) and 8 military pallets + 1LD6 container + 1 LD3 container (lower deck cargo compartments)
- Payload: 45,000 kg (99,000 lb) non-fuel payload
- Length: 58.80 m (193 ft)
- Wingspan: 60.3 m (198 ft)
- Height: 17.4 m (57 ft)
- Wing area: 362 m2 (3,900 ft2)
- Empty weight: 125,000 kg (275,600 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 233,000 kg (514,000 lb)
- Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Trent 772B, or General Electric CF6-80E1A4, or Pratt & Whitney PW 4170; turbofans, 320 kN (72,000 lbf) 320 kN each
- Fuel capacity: 111,000 kg (245,000 lb) max, 65,000 kg (143,000 lb) at 1,000 nmi (1852 km) with 2 hours on station
- Maximum speed: 880 km/h (475 knots, 547 mph)
- Cruise speed: 860 km/h (464 knots, 534 mph)
- Combat radius: 1,800 km (972 nmi) with 50 tonnes of fuel for 4 hours
- Ferry range: 14,800 km (8,000 nmi, 9,200 mi)
- Service ceiling: 13,000 m (42,700 ft)
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
- McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender
- Boeing KC-46 Pegasus
- Ilyushin Il-96-400TZ
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No one on the ground or in the flight crew was injured. An Airbus Military spokesman says the boom separated cleanly at a mechanical joint, leaving minimal damage to the actual aircraft.
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