France has become the sixth nation to choose the Airbus Defence and Space A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) after placing an order for 12 of the type for delivery from 2018.
The MRTT will replace the C-135FR in Armee de l-Air service, with the 12 aircraft currently scheduled to be delivered at the rate of about one to two per year. Australia was the lead customer for the type with an order for five aircraft in 2004, and the MRTT has since also been ordered by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, and the UK.
The French order adds to the previous tally of 34, of which 22 are currently in service, while two other nations – India and Qatar – have selected an additional six and two MRTTs respectively and are currently in contract negotiations. There is also believed to be considerable interest in a sixth aircraft for the RAAF, to possibly be equipped with a VIP forward cabin.
“The French Air Force has enormous experience in the field of air-to-air refuelling,” Airbus Defence and Space executive vice president military aircraft, Domingo Ureña Raso said in a statement. “It knows the factors which are critical to success and its selection of the A330 MRTT is a real honour for us. In addition it is a long-standing operator of our transport aircraft and as always we are particularly proud in gaining the further confidence of an existing customer.”
The French aircraft will be powered by Rolle-Royce Trent 700 engines, and will be fitted with both a centreline advanced refuelling boom system (boom) and wingtip hose and drogue pods. The interior will be configured with seating for up to 271 passengers, or with the French MORPHEE intensive care module which can accommodate to ten stretcher patients and 88 passengers for Medevac missions.
An RAAF KC-30A was the first A330 MRTT to experience combat operations after being deployed to Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE as part of a larger RAAF Air Task Group (ATG) in late September, while UAE and Saudi MRTTs have also reportedly been used in recent operations over Iraq. To date, only the RAAF has adopted the KC-30 designation for its MRTTs.