Singapore Air Show

Singapore Gets Smart with Airbus A330 Tanker

 - February 12, 2020, 2:53 AM
Airbus has delivered 42 of 60 orders for A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports. Now comes automatic air-to-air refueling and enhanced maintenance features. (Photo: David McIntosh/AIN)

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is the launch customer for the Smart enhancements to the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), Airbus announced here yesterday. This consists of automatic air-to-air refueling (A3R) and enhanced maintenance. The RSAF has taken delivery of all six A330MRTTs that it ordered; one is on display in the static park at the Singapore Air Show.

“With this agreement, the RSAF leads the evolution of the A330MRTT, helping us to bring new hands-off capabilities to the benchmark of next-gen tanker operations,” said Alberto Gutierrez, Airbus head of military aircraft.

Airbus first demonstrated A3R in July 2018, when the company’s A310 development tanker performed seven automated contacts with a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (A330) MRTT. Now the RSAF will take part in the ongoing development, flight test, and certification program. Airbus hopes to get that ticket in 2021.

The A3R system reduces operator workload and increases the accuracy of contact with the receiver aircraft. It also provides more information to the receiver so that it can better position for refueling and optimizes the rate of refueling. Once the system is activated, the boom flight control system becomes fully automated before contact is made and refueling begins. The air refueling operator seated in the cockpit simply monitors the operation. Airbus says that the A3R development paves the way towards a fully autonomous refueling operation.

The enhanced maintenance upgrade allows ground crews to detect and troubleshoot the root cause of a failure directly from the aircraft’s flight deck. It enables faster resolution of ground tasks while providing the means for maximizing the efficient use of spare parts.

Airbus has now delivered 42 of the 60 A330MRTTs on order. At a briefing at the Singapore show yesterday, Johan Pelissier, Airbus head of Asia-Pacific, said that the company was talking to Indonesia about an MRTT order. Talks with India have dragged on, but Airbus says that the requirement is huge and well worth pursuing.