On 7 September, the first Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) for France successfully completed its maiden flight, which lasted 3h25 and during which the aircraft performed in line with expectations, the crew reported. Following certification flight tests carried out by the aircraft manufacturer, it will be handed over to the quality and testing teams of the Directorate-General for Armaments (DGA) in view of its state qualification. Once accepted by DGA in 2018, it will be formally handed over to the Air Force.
Known in France as the Phénix, the MRTT is a standard Airbus A330 aircraft assembled in Toulouse that was subsequently converted in Getafe, Spain. It is the second A330 MRTT to fly and features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements giving a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems. The Phénix fleet will be equipped with a combination of the Airbus Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods, and can carry 272 passengers or be configured for medical evacuation.
The MRTT will replace the current in-flight refuelling (C135-FR and KC135R) and strategic personnel and freight transportation aircraft with a single fleet of 12 large multi-purpose carriers. The new fleet’s missions will include supporting the air force’s nuclear strike deterrent force, and contributing to the permanent posture of security, force projection and medical transportation (strategic sanitary evacuation).
This MRTT is the first of nine aircraft ordered by the DGA, with another three expected to be confirmed. Twenty-eight A330 MRTTs have already been delivered and have 42 ordered by the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Singapore, and South Korea. The European Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) has also ordered its first aircraft in 2016 (two firm orders, six more on option), as such interesting prospects for cooperation on training, support and employment are being examined within the framework of the European Defence Agency.
Dr. Alix Valenti