The deal follows an initial order for a single A330 MRTT placed last November, when the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) announced plans to buy a total of 12 of the tanker transports. First deliveries are planned for 2018, with all 12 due to be in service by late 2025.
The French aircraft – to be named Phénix (Phoenix) – will replace the Armée de l’Air’s existing fleet of KC-135R and C-135FR tankers and A340 and A310 transports. Like Australia’s A330 MRTTs (designed KC-30A in RAAF service), the French aircraft will feature both the Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) plus underwing probe-and-drogue refuelling pods.
Unlike the Australian aircraft they will be equipped with the A330 Freighter’s main deck freight door, allowing them to be configured to carry up to 271 passengers, or an intensive care module for 10 stretcher patients plus 88 passengers, or freight. Another difference is Rolls-Royce Trent 700, rather than General Electric, engines.
Seven countries have placed orders for 49 A330 MRTTs, of which 26 have been delivered.