By Sangeeta Saxena
Seville. 14, November, 2015.Expectancy is in the air. Airbus Defence and Space (DS) is hopeful of gaining emergency aerial refuelling clearances for its military aircraft operating in the Middle East, said Antonio Caramazana, Head of A330MRTT programme.
He informed the journalists present at the Trade Media Briefing at its facility that the both the US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy (USN) have had discussions for gaining emergency refuelling clearances.
“The [USAF] and [USN] were in Madrid in September to discuss their plans for gaining full clearance of all their receiver aircraft that are now performing real-mission operations in the Middle East,” he said. An Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT) of the Royal Australian Air Force has successfully refuelled a F-35A Joint Strike Fighter of the US Air Force. During a four-hour sortie from Edwards AFB, California, the tanker, known in RAAF service as the KC-30A, conducted 59 contacts including five “wet contacts” during which 19,600kg (43,200lb) of fuel were passed. All the refuelling was performed used the A330 MRTT’s Airbus Airborne Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). The combat-proven A330 MRTT is the only new generation tanker/transport certified and in-service and the first to refuel the F-35A, underlining its full international interoperability with all Western front-line fighters.
Out of the USAF’s current combat fleet of Boeing F-15C/D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle; Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon; Rockwell B-1B Lancer; and Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II platforms all of these receiver aircraft utilise the boom-and-receptacle method of aerial refuelling, from A330MRTT. Hose-and-drogue tests with the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) McDonnel Douglas AV-8B Harrier II; the USN’s Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and EA-18G Growler; and the USMC’s Grumman EA-6B Prowler, will also be done by the air refueller tankers of Airbus.
The A330 MRTT is certified for two-crew transport operation and has the most advanced Flight Deck in the tanker/transport market today. The A330 MRTT fully benefits from the latest advances in commercial aircraft cockpit design, including advanced avionics, the only state-of-the-art human machine interface (HMI) in service and Fly-By-Wire (FBW) controls. It provides higher reliability, by reducing crew workload and enhancing situational awareness, thus dispensing crews with spare capacity to enhance mission success.
Caramanza stated that the A330 MRTT is offered with a customised suite of military avionics and a mission system integrated with civil avionics. The A330 MRTT aircraft is fitted with a comprehensive state-of-the-art self-protection system to ensure their survivability in a high-threat environment, including a Defensive Aid System (DAS), fuel tank inerting system and an armoured cockpit.
The A330 MRTT is able to perform all this roles in the same sortie without the need of reconfiguration, providing unique versatility in a wide range of varied missions worldwide. Able to carry up to 111 tonnes / 245,000 lb of fuel in its wings, the basic fuel capacity of the successful A330-200 airliner, from which it is derived, enables the A330 MRTT to excel in Air-to-Air Refuelling missions and refuel any kind of receiver, without the need for any additional fuel tank, hereby avoiding any reduction in its ability to carry passengers or cargo.
Thanks to its inherited true wide-body fuselage, the A330 MRTT offers a great variety of configurations. It can be used as a pure transport aircraft able to carry up to 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes/99,000 lb. It can also easily be converted to accommodate up to 130 stretchers for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions.
The Cobham 905E Under-Wing Pods, currently in service and proven in operation, enable the A330 MRTT to refuel any NATO or allied Probe-equipped receivers such as the Eurofighter, the Tornado, the Jaguar, the F/A18 Hornet or the Sukhoi 30. The A330 MRTT physical compatibility with receivers across the world is established, demonstrated and certified to allow coalition interoperability.
The 900 series Wing-Pods incorporate a digitally controlled and electrically operated Hose drum unit, optimizing reliability and maintainability.
The FRU, a removable Hose and Drogue unit, allows refuelling receivers with a different fuel type. This option assures NATO fuel type to be transferred from Wing-Pods, while an alternative fuel type is dispensed from the FRU.
Those Air to Air Refuelling (AAR) systems are controlled from an advanced Fuel Operator Console that is positioned in the cockpit, increasing the safety of the AAR operation by ensuring a timely and synchronized reaction of the flight crew to unexpected events. It also features an Enhanced Vision System, a high definition 2D/3D digital system that allows to perform day and night refuelling and can provide high resolution video recording of the refuelling operations.