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Airbus Military A330 Tanker Marks New Milestone

February 3rd, 2010 ~ No Comments

ARLINGTON, VA – The Airbus Military A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) has marked a new milestone with the aerial refueling of a French Air Force E-3F AWACS radar aircraft, transferring more than 65,000 pounds of fuel during two missions.

This new achievement validates the A330 MRTT’s capability to refuel a wide range of receiver aircraft, from the F-16 and F/A-18 fighters refueled in previous missions, to large aircraft such as the E-3 that require large fuel offloads at high transfer rates. The MRTT test team characterized the refueling operations as flawless, despite the potentially challenging aerodynamics posed by the size and unique shape of the radome-equipped AWACS.

The latest refueling missions were part of the flight test and military certification program for the Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 MRTT. Australia has ordered five aircraft, the first of which will be delivered later this year. The A330 MRTT is the basis of Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 Tanker offered for the U.S. Air Force.

“With this important milestone, the A330 MRTT has once again demonstrated its ability to meet the U.S. Air Force’s demanding operational requirements for its next generation tanker,” said Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., Chairman of EADS North America. “We have an aircraft flying now that brings more capability than any tanker available in the world.”

EADS North America is a principal teammate on the Northrop Grumman KC-45 Tanker program, and is responsible for delivering the aircraft platform, which will be produced by Airbus at a new aviation center of excellence to be built in Mobile, Ala.

The A330 MRTT has swept all competitions for next-generation aerial tankers since 2004, having been selected by Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — which together have ordered a total of 28 aircraft.

As with the KC-45, Australia’s A330 MRTT incorporates Airbus Military’s state-of-the-art Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS), along with two digital hose-and-drogue pods under the wings. The all-electric, fly-by-wire ARBS can deliver fuel at 1,200 U.S. gallons per minute — a key requirement for the U.S. Air Force’s tanker — while the digital 905E refueling pods provide up to 420 gallons of fuel per minute through 90-ft.-long hoses for probe-equipped receiver aircraft.

During last week’s AWACS refueling missions, the A330 MRTT made repeated contacts with the ARBS, at altitudes around 20,000 feet and 250 knots airspeed.

The process was controlled from a state-of-the-art Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) station located on the A330 MRTT’s flight deck behind the pilots. Using the RARO station’s high-definition 3D-vision system, the boom operator has precise control of boom position in day or night operations.

This Australian A330 MRTT has now conducted a more than 200 wet and dry contacts during the development program, transferring more than 200,000 pounds of fuel via boom and drogue to three different types of NATO aircraft that also are flown by the U.S. Air Force and Navy.

A total of six A330 MRTT aircraft currently are in the conversion and flight test process: three for Australia, two for the United Kingdom and one for Saudi Arabia — underscoring the company’s ability to build, outfit and deliver the next-generation tanker at sustained rates from multiple production sites.

Tags: Airbus ~ News

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