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[*] posted on 29-1-2020 at 02:47 PM


C-295 In-Flight Refueling Tests Continue

(Source: Spanish Air Force; issued Jan. 27, 2020)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-aerospace.com)

The Spanish Air Force’s Ala 35 (35th Air Wing), based in Getafe (Madrid), and the Airbus company have worked together over the past few weeks to continue testing the in-flight refueling version of the C-295 military transport aircraft which the company is developing.

Several test flights have been carried out at different speeds, testing the new equipment and its different configurations at the different air speeds at which the operation takes place.

VIDEO: El Ala 35 prueba el kit de reabastecimiento en vuelo del C-295 desarrollado por Airbus: https://youtu.be/D1ODSJE2mwQ

The Spanish Air Force and Airbus are testing the aerial tanker version of the C-295 twin turboprop tanker.

After these flights, very useful conclusions have been drawn so that the Airbus engineering team can continue developing the system. It should be noted that it was the first time that contacts were made with real fuel transfer from one plane to another using the new equipment.

The degree of difficulty of these test flights is always high, since it involves performing maneuvers that nobody has flown before. It should be noted that due to the behavior of the aircraft, the operation has been quite good and simple, always within the limits of difficulty inherent in a test flight.

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[*] posted on 10-2-2020 at 08:19 PM


France receives second and final KC-130J tanker-transport

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

07 February 2020


The second of two KC-130Js and the last of four new Hercules for the French Air Force were handed over to service officials at the Marietta production facility in the United States on 4 February. Source: Lockheed Martin

France has received into service the second of two Lockheed Martin KC-130J tanker-transport aircraft as part of a wider Hercules procurement effort, the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) announced on 7 February.

The tanker variant of the C-130J transport aircraft was handed over to French officials at the Marietta production facility in Georgia on 4 February. The event came four months after the first KC-130J arrived at Orléans-Bricy Air Base in France in late September 2019.

Prior to receiving its two KC-130Js, France had earlier taken delivery of two 'stretched' transport C-130J-30 aircraft. All four aircraft are to be operated by 2/61 "Franche-Comté" 123 at Orléans-Bricy Air Base.

As previously noted by the DGA, the purchase of the four new Hercules is being expedited due to the high operational commitment in North Africa. The arrival of the first KC-130J enabled the air force to immediately undertake aerial refuelling of its Airbus Helicopter H225M Caracal rotorcraft, extending their reach across the Sahel-Sahara region. This was a capability that France had not previously possessed.

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[*] posted on 12-2-2020 at 09:24 PM


Singapore air show 2020

Airbus Defence & Space and Singapore to collaborate on automatic aerial refueling

By Greg Waldron12 February 2020

Airbus Defence & Space and Singapore will collaborate on the development, certification and implementation of an automatic aerial refueling capability for the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).

A flight-test campaign for the new system is already under way, with certification expected in 2021, says Airbus.


Source: Airbus Defence & Space
A Republic of Singapore Air Force A330 MRTT


The agreement will see a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) A330 MRTT take part in the work.

Objectives of the activity include improving the aircraft’s availability and mission success rate.

“With this agreement, the Singapore air force leads the evolution of the A330 MRTT, helping us to bring new hands-off capabilities to the benchmark of next-gen tanker operations,” says Airbus head of military aircraft, Alberto Gutierrez.

The system, designated A3R, will reduce the air refueling operator’s (ARO) workload, boost safety, and optimize the rate of fuel transfer.

When A3R is activated, the flight control of the aircraft’s boom is fully automated and transfers fuel upon contact with the receiver, with the ARO in a monitoring role.

“The A3R development paves the way towards a fully autonomous aerial refueling operation,” says Airbus.

Cirium fleets data indicates that Singapore has four in-service A330 MRTTs with two additional examples to be delivered. The type replaced the RSAF’s Boeing KC-135Rs in 2019.
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[*] posted on 4-3-2020 at 02:37 PM


State Department approves sale of 8 Boeing KC-46A tankers to Israel

By Garrett Reim4 March 2020

The US State Department has approved the sale of eight Boeing KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tankers to Israel for an estimated $2.4 billion.

The US Congress has been notified of the possible sale, says the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on 3 March.


Source: Boeing
Boeing KC-46A Pegasus with refuelling boom extended


The potential sale to Tel Aviv comes after the Boeing KC-46A has suffered years of delays and weak Foreign Military Sales. Beside the US Air Force (USAF), which is on contract to buy 67 tankers, the only other country to buy the aircraft is Japan, which has two examples on contract.

The KC-46A programme has been hobbled by engineering and manufacturing problems, in particular with its refuelling boom camera, called the Remote Vision System. The camera can distort images that boom operators see, leading to accidental collisions with recipient aircraft.

Boeing is working on a fix for the issue, though the retrofit won’t be ready and installed on service aircraft until 2022 or 2023, delaying the tanker’s operational use for several more years, the USAF has said.

Problems and delays with the KC-46A have put the programme several billion dollars in the hole. Foreign Military Sales are seen as critical to Boeing’s ability to make a profit on the programme.

For its part, Israel operates seven Boeing 707 and three Lockheed Martin KC-130H in-flight refuelling tankers, according to Cirium’s Fleet Analyser.

“The proposed sale further supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to US assets within the region, potentially freeing US assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” says the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israel’s national security posture as a key US ally.”

In addition to the aircraft, the sales package would comprise of 17 Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, including one spare; 18 Raytheon Miniature Airborne 2000-GPS Selective Availability Anti-Spoof Module Receivers; Collins AN/ARC-210 U/VHF programmable digital radios; and Raytheon APX-119 identification friend or foe transponders, among other spare parts and training services.

The possible sale notification to the US Congress does not mean the deal with Israel is finalised, as the quantity, configuration and price could change with further negotiations.
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[*] posted on 4-3-2020 at 02:54 PM


….and just to keep everyone "happy", they are also late with the "fixes"...….……

A fix for the KC-46 is already a year late

By: Valerie Insinna and Joe Gould   9 hours ago


Two KC-46 Pegasus aircraft from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., sit on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 29, 2020. (Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The Air Force now believes a correction for the Boeing KC-46 tanker’s major technical problem won’t be available until at least 2023, forecasting a one-year delay to previous estimates, its top general said Tuesday.

The service is now targeting a 2023-2024 timeframe to begin fielding a fix for the Remote Vision System, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The RVS, manufactured by Rockwell Collins, is a series of cameras that allows users to steer a refueling boom into the aircraft receiving gas.

The slow pace of a fix prompted concerns from senators, who indicated that Congress may use the yearly defense policy bill to further pressure Boeing to move quickly.

The new timeline is an effectively a one-year delay from the three to four year timeframe anticipated for a fix in 2019, which would have put a resolution in 2022-2023. Boeing is already delivering KC-46s to the service, and it could take even longer than the projected 2023 start date to begin retrofitting the KC-46s in its possession with new hardware and software, Goldfein added.

“Right now we are in final negotiations with the company on the fix, so I’ve got to be a little careful about how much detail I go into,” he told lawmakers.

“But I did have a follow up conversation with the [Boeing] CEO [Dave Calhoun] and I told him that not only the quality of a serious hardware fix is important, but also time. Because the longer we wait to get that operational, the longer we’re having to extend KC-135s, KC-10s, and it just continues to add up.”

Goldfein anticipates that Boeing and the Air Force will reach an agreement this month on how to fix the RVS and a schedule for rolling out the correction, he told Defense News in February.

The deal could have massive implications for the Air Force’s tanker inventory, including its proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. The service intends to retire 29 tankers total — 16 KC-10s and 13 KC-135s—under its current budget request for FY21.

However, the Defense Department appears to be reconsidering this plan due to concerns of an aerial refueling capability gap and calls by U.S. Transportation Command to restore funding for 13 KC-135s and 10 KC-10s. TRANSCOM head Gen. Stephen Lyons said last week that a solution was close at hand after meetings that included Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

The Defense Department is now about two weeks from a final decision on whether it will retain a portion of the KC-10s and KC-135s slated for retirement, but that decision is closely linked to how quickly Boeing will be able to put in place a correction for the RVS, Air Mobility Command head Gen. Maryanne Miller told Defense News in an exclusive Feb. 28 interview.

“Once we sit down with Boeing and get this finalized, we will really know a better timeline [for retiring legacy tankers],” she said.

“I think there was a tendency to look at the RVS as a problem that’s going to get fixed in a short amount of time — that you can accept the risk in the next couple of years by having less tankers,” she said. “We’ve, over this past year, not made progress on RVS until a couple of weeks ago, and we now are in intense conversations with Boeing and the trend is very positive.”

Air Mobility Command forecasts a gap of 23 to 28 tankers on any given day, Miller said. However, that gap impacts “day-to-day” missions like augmenting training exercises, not wartime requirements in the Middle East, she noted.

“We’re all clear eyed about the degradation to the joint force and the operational risk,” Lyons said last week. “To the senators’ questions, ‘What do we do?’ That’s the big question. Whether it becomes a mark in this budget or a reprogramming action, we’re attempting to retain those aircraft to mitigate that deep bathtub [in capability] that occurs with the KC-46 conversion.”

‘Time is of the essence’

Currently, the Air Force has 31 KC-46s, with another two aircraft slated to head to Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., this Friday. Those aircraft are being used for developmental tests and training, and Goldfein described his own experiences flying the KC-46 and using the Remote Vision System to refuel a C-17 during the hearing.

“As you’re trying to connect with an airplane, the last 10 feet is actually difficult for the boom operator to actually focus in and see,” he said. “So we’re seeing more strikes around the receptacle before it plugs in. The worst case conditions would be blue skies, sun at your back, because what happens is there’s a glare that now bounces off the airplane and makes it harder to see.”

If the United States found itself at war with a near-peer nation like Russia or China, the Air Force could mitigate the risk and use its KC-46s in combat even with its current RVS configuration, Goldfein said. However, the Air Force believes that degraded level of performance is not acceptable for normal operations.

Goldfein told lawmakers that he believes Boeing understands the importance of a speedy solution to the RVS problem, saying that “Boeing has heard loud and clear that time is of the essence.”

But lawmakers raised questions about the lack of progress on the issue.

“Three or four years doesn’t sound like time is of the essence to me,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.,. “I hope this committee will do what we can to address that as well, because that’s unacceptable. It really is.”

After the hearing, the panel’s top Democrat, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, said lawmakers in the House and Senate armed services committees would “look at the full range” of legislative remedies through the nascent 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

“We want to have the capability of projecting power and without a refueling fleet of sufficient size and capacity, you don’t have that,” Reed said, adding: “They’re saying 2023 is when the problem will be fixed, and the question [the Air Force has] to ask the company, and I think we have to ask in turn is: ‘Can that be accelerated?’”

Shaheen said outside the hearing she was concerned with both the potential for a gap in refueling capability but also training, if air refueling squadrons lack tankers. “I don’t think it’s acceptable at this point to say, ‘That’s just the way it goes.’ I think we have to explore what options we might have,” she said.

In a statement, Boeing deferred comments on the hearing to the Air Force.

“We are working closely with the Air Force to enhance the KC-46 Remote Vision System. The KC-46 provides capability and capacity growth for the aerial refueling fleet, and we are committed to meeting that urgent need with a mission ready platform,” the company said.
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[*] posted on 7-3-2020 at 01:08 PM


Omega Air expects both growth, competition for US commercial air refueling services

Pat Host, Washington, DC - Jane's Defence Weekly

06 March 2020


An Omega Air DC-10 (left) refuels an F-35B. The company expects the market for commercial aerial refueling services to grow as the US Air Force wants to reduce its tanker fleet, but an expert warns of high barriers to entry and unpredictable procurement signals. Source: Omega Air Refueling Services

Key Points

- Omega Air Refueling Services expects demand for its services to grow as the US Air Force wants to reduce its tanker fleet
- The company expects competitors to enter this market but an expert warns of flat budget predictions and high barriers to entry

The world's only provider of commercial aerial refueling services expects both the market and competition to provide aerial refueling services to the Pentagon to grow as the US Air Force (USAF) plans to reduce its aerial refueling tanker fleet.

Tom Swiderek, Omega Air Refueling Services (OARS) president, told Jane's on 3 March that the USAF has been discussing a requirement of between 10,000 and 20,000 flying hours per year and a programme value of about USD500 million per year. Air Mobility Command (AMC) held an industry day on 17 December and roughly 40 participants and 14 companies attended to discuss contracting boom-type air-to-air refueling, according to a service statement.

The USAF, in its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request, proposed reducing its tanker fleet by 20 aircraft. It would reduce its McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender capacity from 56 to 40 aircraft and cut its Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker fleet from 167 to 159 aircraft while increasing its Boeing KC-46A Pegasus inventory from 40 to 44 aircraft. Swiderek expects a large capability gap to develop as the USAF had accepted delivery of roughly 100 KC-135s per year for about seven to eight years in a row.

The service, on the other hand, expects to accept delivery of no more than 15 KC-46As per year through FY 2025. Additionally, USAF chief of staff General David Goldfein said on 3 March that the aircraft's troubles are so pervasive that he would only use the Pegasus in a high-end fight but not during day-to-day operations. Boeing is working towards ensuring that the aircraft's remove vision system (RVS) is functioning properly.

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[*] posted on 18-4-2020 at 12:07 AM


Airbus Achieves World’s First Fully Automatic Refuelling Contacts

(Source: Airbus Defence; issued April 17, 2020)


The picture shows the first fully automated refuelling contacts between an Airbus tanker test aircraft and a Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jet. (Airbus photo)

GETAFE, Spain --- Airbus has achieved the first ever fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign, conducted earlier in the year over the Atlantic Ocean, involved an Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with the Airbus A3R solution, with an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver.

This milestone is part of the industrialisation phase of A3R systems ahead of its implementation in the A330 MRTT tanker development.

The campaign achieved a total of 45 flight test hours and 120 dry contacts with the A3R system, covering the whole aerial refuelling envelope, as the F-16 and MRTT consolidate the maturity and capabilities of the development at this stage. The certification phase will start in 2021.

Didier Plantecoste, Airbus Head of Tanker and Derivatives Programmes, said: “The achievement of this key milestone for the A3R programme highlights the A330 MRTT’s excellent capability roadmap development and once more confirms that our tanker is the world’s reference for present and future refuelling operations. Our special thanks go to the Portuguese Air Force for their continued support and help on this crucial development.”

VIDEO: Airbus achieves world’s first fully automatic refuelling contacts: https://youtu.be/LvSFt499pvU
Airbus video of a fully automatic refuelling of an F-16 fighter jet by an A330 MRTT tanker aircraft during the system’s development.

The A3R system requires no additional equipment on the receiver aircraft and is intended to reduce air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling transfer in operational conditions, helping maximise aerial superiority. The goal for the A3R system is to develop technologies that will reach fully autonomous capabilities.

Once the system is activated by the ARO, the A3R flies the boom automatically and keeps the alignment between the boom tip and the receiver receptacle with an accuracy of a couple of centimeters; the proper alignment and the receiver stability is checked in real-time to keep a safe distance between the boom and the receiver and also to determine the optimum moment to extend the telescopic beam to achieve the connection with the receiver.

At this point, the fuel transfer is initiated to fill up the receiver aircraft and once completed and the disconnection is commanded, the boom is cleared away from the receiver by retracting the telescopic beam and flying the boom away to keep a safe separation distance. During this process, the ARO simply monitors the operation.

To download images from this milestone; please click on the following link

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2019, it generated revenues of € 70 billion and employed a workforce of around 135,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

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[*] posted on 30-4-2020 at 09:15 AM


Boeing KC-46A refuelling boom camera redesign to cost $551 million

By Garrett Reim

30 April 2020

It will cost Boeing $551 million to redesign the boom camera on the KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tanker.

In total, the aerospace company took a pre-tax charge of $827 million for the KC-46A tanker in the first quarter of 2020, it says in an earnings call on 29 April. In addition to the boom camera redesign, the programme lost money because of “productivity inefficiencies” and coronavirus-caused shutdowns of Boeing’s Puget Sound factories where the KC-46A is made, the company says.


KC-46A Pegasus connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle for an aerial refueling test over California in 2018
Source: US Air Force


Total losses on the KC-46A programme have now risen to about $4.6 billion.

The tanker charge caused Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security business to lose $191 million from operations in the first quarter of 2020. In the first quarter of 2019, the company earned $852 million from operations.

Boeing signed an agreement with the US Air Force (USAF) in April to develop and install a new boom camera, called the Remote Vision System (RVS), on the KC-46A. As part of that agreement, the service decided to release $882 million in payments withheld for a variety of problems with the KC-46A in order to shore up Boeing’s cash flow.

The KC-46A programme has been plagued by problems that have delayed delivery of aircraft and hurt its operational readiness. Issues have included foreign object debris found inside the tanker’s airframe, malfunctioning cargo locks and leaky fuel tanks, as well as problems with images produced by the RVS warping or washing out on boom operator video screens.

The USAF has withheld 20% of payments on examples of the KC-46A that Boeing delivered to the service because those aircraft do not meet agreed specifications. The programme has three category-one deficiencies, such as the issue with the RVS, and a number of other smaller problems.

Category-one deficiencies are problems “which may cause death or severe injury; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system; critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organisation; or results in a production line stoppage”, the USAF has said.

With losses on the KC-46A programme already piled high, Boeing is hoping to make up the deficit with sales to foreign militaries. International customers have been slow to buy the tanker, but Boeing notched an important win in March when Israel was approved to buy eight examples of the aircraft for an estimated $2.4 billion. Prior to that only Japan had agreed to buy the KC-46A, with just two aircraft on contract.
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[*] posted on 8-7-2020 at 11:50 PM


Airbus Transforms A330s into Multi Role Tanker Transports Through an Optimised Conversion Process

(Source: Airbus; issued July 07, 2020)


Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) are now being outfitted for their multi-mission duties in an optimised industrial process – enabling five aircraft to undergo the conversion every year. (Airbus infographic)

Having earned its reputation as the new-generation aerial tanker of choice for military services worldwide, Airbus’ A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) are now being outfitted for their multi-mission duties in an optimised industrial process – enabling five aircraft to undergo the conversion every year.

The A330 MRTT is based on Airbus’ popular A330 widebody passenger airliner, with the aircraft produced on the company’s commercial airplane final assembly line in Toulouse, France. Once their initial built-up is complete, they are flown to Airbus’ military aircraft facility in Getafe, Spain to be transformed with hardware and systems for their dual roles as an air-to-air refuelling platform and an airlifter for troops and cargo.

Thousands of new parts integrated

During the conversion, Airbus teams install some 16,000 types of new components and approximately 450 new electrical harnesses (for a total cabling length of more than 50 km.), as well as 6,000 brackets and 1,700 connectors.

With 42 A330 MRTTs delivered to date, Airbus’ has reduced the end-to-end transformation time by one month, introducing increased digitalization and applying the “takt” principle of lean production methodology – in which the aircraft moves through the conversion with zero hours pending and zero work orders open.

The digitalization includes the increasing use of Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headsets instead of computer tablets. With 80 to 90 work orders now produced with HoloLens, the goal is to apply the system during 2020 for 50% of overall work orders, mainly for electrical and hydraulic installations.

A key element of the conversion is installing the A330 MRTT’s air-to-air refuelling hardware. All aircraft are equipped with hose and drogue units, and most customers have opted for Airbus’ highly capable fly-by-wire Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) – which provides enhanced controllability during in-flight fuel transfers to receiver airplanes.

The A330 MRTT transformation process includes locating the Airbus-developed Air Refuelling Console in the cockpit area behind the pilots. Containing seats for two crew members, this station enables the aerial refuelling to be remotely controlled, aided by an advanced high-resolution observation system with panoramic 3D-vision for operations day and night.

On the A330 MRTT’s main deck, the aircraft’s widebody cross-section can be configured a variety of roles, from the transportation of troops and personnel with capacities for 268 passengers in a two-class configuration, to aeromedical evacuation – accommodating two intensive care units, 16 stretchers, along with seating for medical staff and passengers.

Customers from around the world

Airbus delivered its initial A330 MRTT in December 2009, with this no. 1 aircraft received by the Royal Australian Air Force. Today, A330 MRTTs are flown by Australia, France, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Emirates and United Kingdom – logging a combined total of more than 200,000 flight hours.

A total of 60 A330 MRTTs have been ordered for operations at the service of 13 nations.

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[*] posted on 23-7-2020 at 11:43 AM


CC-150 Polaris Tanker Fleet Reaches NORAD Milestone

(Source: Royal Canadian Air Force; issued July 20, 2020)

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) achieved initial operating capability for their fleet of CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling tankers, operated by 437 Transport Squadron, from Trenton, Ontario, on July 1, 2020.

This milestone, otherwise known as “IOC”, validates the fleet’s ability to support not only its enduring strategic airlift and air-to-air refuelling role for other domestic and overseas operations, but also the same capability for NORAD, which includes Northern and Arctic operations.

Notable missions the fleet will now support are similar to what NORAD conducts in response to Russian incursions into the Canadian and United States identification zones in the Arctic, such as the missions carried out on June 16, 24 and 27, 2020.

Until the point of this milestone, the RCAF primarily relied on their aging fleet of CC-130H/T Hercules air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft to fill this role; but those aircraft are now being phased out of service, as their primary search and rescue (SAR) role is soon to be taken over by the Government of Canada’s purchase of the new CC-295 Fixed Wing SAR platform.

“The CC-150 Tanker is a great platform for the CANR mission. It’s fast, reliable and extremely flexible in its ability to help us achieve our mission set,” said Brigadier-General Ed “Hertz” Vaughan, Deputy Commander, Canadian NORAD Region.

“When NORAD tasks our region to deploy CF-18 Fighters to the north, the Polaris tanker is now ready to be a part of the mix, to help defend our approaches and keep us all safe.”

This IOC milestone was validated during a real-world CANR deployment to Yellowknife and Inuvik, Northwest Territories, during the weekend of June 13. The aircraft flew north to meet up with CF-18 Fighters over the Beaufort Sea, where it provided air-to-air refuelling support.

The Polaris tanker aircraft is a similar version to the CC-150 Polaris aircraft which are configured to carry passengers, not unlike a typical airliner. The difference with the tanker version is fewer seats, and the ability to carry more fuel and cargo.

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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 11:52 AM


How global A330 MRTT fleet stepped up during crisis

By Craig Hoyle

5 August 2020

In common with its A400M Atlas stablemate, the Airbus Defence & Space A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) has come into its own during the coronavirus pandemic, with multiple nations demonstrating the adapted widebody’s operational versatility.

“The MRTT was absolutely part of the fight against Covid[-19],” Didier Plantecoste, the company’s head of tanker and derivatives programmes, tells FlightGlobal.


A330 Phenix
Source: French air force
The French air force recently added a third Phenix tanker/transport


“Some of our customers were performing important missions,” he says, including repatriation and medical evacuation flights, such as several return sorties to Wuhan, China, conducted by the French air force with the service’s new “Phenix” tankers.

Airbus itself employed a “green” A330, which had yet to enter modification for its military customer, to transport more than four million face masks from Tianjin, China, for donation by the company to France and Spain.

The MRTT’s medevac capabilities – including being partially reconfigured to house intensive care unit (ICU)-standard equipment – have also been repeatedly proven during the health crisis.

Plantecoste notes that not all MRTT users had selected such an option for their fleets prior to the crisis, but that demand has spiked. “We have seen real interest from our customers,” he says, with Airbus offering from “light” to “heavy” medevac configurations.

Disruption to normal working practices during the coronavirus outbreak posed challenges, but ensuring strong support and meeting delivery milestones remained a key focus for the company. “The main contribution was to our customer,” Plantecoste notes: “business continuity was really key for us.”

Such work included completing a systems upgrade on a first A330 for the Republic of Korea Air Force. This was conducted on the service’s third example from a four-unit buy, which was returned to use by Seoul in late May.

Late June saw the delivery of a first boom- and hose-and-drogue refuelling pod-equipped A330 for the NATO Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF), to Eindhoven air base in the Netherlands. This was immediately followed by the transfer of a third Phenix to France, while a second example for the MMF is due to be shipped within the coming weeks.


A330 MRTT MMF
Source: Airbus Defence & Space
Six-nation MMF group could eventually operate up to 11 of the type


This trio of deliveries in little over a month will mark a record for the MRTT programme. They will take to 44 the total number of aircraft handed over to customers, with a further 16 on firm order. Other current users are Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In a stroke, the MMF programme has added six more nations to this users’ group. Current arrangements call for an eventual pooled fleet of at least eight aircraft to deliver a combined 8,900 flight hours per year for Belgium (1,000), the Czech Republic (100), Germany (5,500), Luxembourg (200), the Netherlands (2,000) and Norway (100).

Deliveries will be complete by 2022, with options for a further three tankers in place. Configured with 31 business- and 236 economy-class seats, the assets can also be converted for medevac tasks, in a revised layout with six ICU beds, 16 stretchers, seating for 21 medical staff, and 96 passengers.

In another recent development, Plantecoste says the UK’s conversion of an AirTanker-owned A330 Voyager for VIP transport applications has prompted interest from several other operators. Used by the Royal Air Force, the asset retains its primary in-flight refuelling capability.


Source: Crown Copyright
One of the UK Royal Air Force’s Voyagers can perform tanker and VIP transport tasks


Further enhancements to the MRTT are already in the pipeline, led by an automatic air-to-air refuelling, or A3R, boom capability. Certification is on schedule for 2021, for service introduction by Singapore, with Australia also interested.

The new technology will reduce operators’ training burden and enhance safety, says Plantecoste, adding: “We are convinced that we are securing the future.”

France and the UK, meanwhile, intend to employ their tankers as communication nodes within future combat air system networks.

“We have a huge opportunity to pave the way to support the ‘combat cloud’,” says Plantecoste, who expects a “Standard 2” requirement with France’s DGA defence procurement agency to advance next year.

While the European pair are leading the way, “Most of our customers are really pushing us to provide additional capabilities” in the communication sphere, he says.

With production of the MRTT’s A330-200 baseline platform secure until 2023 or 2024, Airbus is eyeing additional sales opportunities. Beyond providing extra aircraft for an expanded MMF group in Europe, it is entering “a new round of negotiation” with the UAE, which last November signalled an intention to double the size of its three-strong fleet of the Airbus type. However, Plantecoste notes that the company still faces “strong competition” for the deal from Boeing’s 767-based KC-46A.

Prior to the coronavirus-driven downturn and collapse in oil prices, Qatar was viewed as “a strong prospect” last year, he says. Doha needs tankers to support its rapidly growing fighter inventory, which will include Boeing F-15s, Dassault Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons.

Longer term, Airbus and its partner Lockheed Martin are waiting on the US Air Force to detail its plan for replacing a fleet of 58 McDonnell Douglas KC-10s.


KC-10
Source: US Air Force
The US Air Force must soon decide how to replace its KC-10 fleet


“We are expecting something like an RFI [request for information] in the months to come. Our objective will be to answer that jointly with Lockheed Martin,” Plantecoste says.

He notes that previous Airbus studies have shown that despite its smaller size, the A330neo’s much lower fuel consumption could allow it to “compete perfectly in terms of capability”.

“We have all the competencies to offer an A330 MRTT Neo, [but] we will have to make a huge investment for that,” Plantecoste says. However, he quips: “If you are ordering 30 MRTT tomorrow, I will find a solution.”

Airbus also remains in discussion with India – another potential MRTT customer – regarding an indigenous project to adapt the A330 for airborne early warning and control duties. The company would supply so-called “blue” aircraft, readied for the installation of a roof-mounted rotodome and onboard mission equipment. “We have delivered offers, and we are quite confident,” he says.

Following a successful stint at the head of the A330 MRTT project, Plantecoste will from early September manage the Eurodrone project for Airbus Defence & Space. This will deliver unmanned surveillance aircraft for use by France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 05:52 PM


And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.



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[*] posted on 6-8-2020 at 06:27 PM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.


That WAS the case BUT Boeing has resoundedly shit in it's own nest not just with KC-46 but also with 737MAX (and that little shitheap has NOT gone away yet). Despite the Billion or three they got from the US Government, they remain in dire financial straits............and it's only going to get worse, for them and for other airline manufacturers.
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[*] posted on 7-8-2020 at 05:48 PM


Quote: Originally posted by bug2  
Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.


That WAS the case BUT Boeing has resoundedly shit in it's own nest not just with KC-46 but also with 737MAX (and that little shitheap has NOT gone away yet). Despite the Billion or three they got from the US Government, they remain in dire financial straits............and it's only going to get worse, for them and for other airline manufacturers.

Given the collapse in the aviation industry, Boeing must be feeling fantastically anxious about what it's going to do with all those 737MAX airframes...
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[*] posted on 20-8-2020 at 10:11 PM


20 AUGUST 2020

A400M conducts first 'wet' air-to-air refuelling with a helicopter

by Emmanuel Huberdeau

An Airbus A400M transport/tanker aircraft has conducted a 'wet' air-to-air refuelling (AAR) contact with a helicopter, it was announced by the French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) on 19 August.


‘Wet’ aerial refuelling contacts between an A400M and H225M helicopter were made for the first time during trials in late July, the DGA announced on 19 August. (DGA)

The test campaign, which was actually flown from 20–31 July, and involved an A400M test aircraft commenting with a French Air Force Airbus H225M Caracal helicopter from 1/67 ‘Pyrénées’ squadron. The trials were aimed at assessing the two aircraft flight envelopes and the performances of the refuelling system, and showed that fuel could be transferred from the A400M to the H225M.

Up to now, only ‘dry’ contacts between the A400M and helicopters had been conducted in September 2019.
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[*] posted on 5-9-2020 at 02:09 PM


The Ministry of the Armed Forces Orders Three A330 Aircraft As Part of the Aerospace Industry Support Plan

(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued Sept. 03, 2020)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)


France has brought forward an order for three Airbus A330s as part of its plan to support its aerospace and defense industry; the aircraft will be later converted to MRTT tanker configuration, eventually increasing France’s tanker fleet to 15 aircraft. (DGA photo)

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the order by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) on August 25, 2020 of three Airbus A330 aircraft as part of the government plan to support the aeronautical industry announced on June 9. The contract is worth 200 million euros. The first two aircraft will be delivered at the end of 2020, and the third in 2022.

These three A330s will be eventually be converted into Phoenix MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) military aircraft. They will then complement the 12 MRTTs expected to be in service by 2023, bringing the Air Force's MRTT fleet to 15 aircraft, in accordance with the final objective fixed by the multiyear Military Planning Law (LPM).

This order will make it possible to advance the withdrawal from service of the Air Force’s two A340s and two A310s, and will ultimately simplify the management of the strategic military aircraft fleet which will be entirely composed of MRTT Phénix.

The advance order for these three A330 aircraft is a concrete and immediate measure of the support of the Ministry of the Armed Forces for the aeronautical industry sector. The total amount of orders that will be placed by the DGA as part of the support of the Ministry of the Armed Forces to the aeronautics industry (advance orders for planes, helicopters and drones) will amount to 600 million euros, with another 230 million euros for the acquisition of helicopters for the benefit of the Civil Protection service and the Gendarmerie Nationale police.

The DGA, in addition to its role of technical authority for state-owned aircraft, conducts aircraft acquisition and modernization projects for the benefit of the Ministry of the Interior. In this context, it applies its proven program management methodology to military programs, with the development of a detailed technical specification and an acquisition strategy in close collaboration with users, negotiation and market monitoring with the manufacturer, and finally the qualification (verification that technical specifications are met) and the acceptance of the aircraft (verification of contractual conformity).

-ends-
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[*] posted on 28-9-2020 at 10:18 PM


28 SEPTEMBER 2020

NATO MMU to receive additional MRTT aircraft

by Gareth Jennings

The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) located at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands is to receive an additional Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) announced on 28 September.


The MMU will now operate nine MRTT aircraft for the MMF capability, following Luxembourg’s decision to increase its commitment to the multinational programme. (NSPA)

The decision, which will increase the multinational fleet to nine aircraft, has been made in response to Luxembourg’s decision to increase its contribution to the capability that also includes Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway.

“This ninth aircraft is part of the three additional options originally included in the contract. The order will be placed by the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) to Airbus Defence and Space, on behalf of NSPA,” the agency said, noting that the additional aircraft is now required after Luxembourg disclosed that it would increase its required flight hours from 200 to 1,200.

The MMU operates the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker and Transport Fleet (MMF) on behalf of the six participating nations. Managed by the NSPA with support from the OCCAR, the capability will provide pooled access to aerial refuelling (hose-and-drogue and boom/receptacle), strategic passenger and cargo airlift, as well as aero-medical evacuation (medevac) capabilities.
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