Airbus Australia Program Manager Valentin Merino has told Australian media that the company has made an unsolicited offer to the Royal Australian Air Force for a sixth MRTT/KC-30 tanker.
The ‘green’ Airbus-owned aircraft was built for the US KC-X program, which was originally awarded to Airbus before being cancelled on appeal. Mr Merino said the company had received interest from Spain and France for the tanker, but had made an offer to Australia, as a preferred customer.
“The original contract signing in 2005 was for five airplanes with options on three more, but that expired in 2006,” Mr Merino said. “The RAAF originally saw a requirement for eight tanker aircraft, and so we made them an offer of a sixth.”
Mr Merino said Airbus would require a decision from the Department of Defence by June 2012 at the latest, but the first customer to make an affirmative decision would get the aircraft.
“The tools for MRTT conversion at our Brisbane facility are already being disassembled and sent back. If the RAAF purchase the sixth MRTT, we can leverage existing knowledge and infrastructure, as well as keep up to 200 people employed,” Mr Merino said.
The Brisbane conversion facility for the existing five KC-30 tankers is operated by Qantas Defence Services and employs both Qantas staff and contractors.
The tanker has an estimated cost of between $150 million and $200 million, and could be ready for service 12 months after starting conversion.