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Airbus A330 MRTT

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A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport
A330 MRTT
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A330 MRTT
Description
RoleAir-to-air refueling
Crew 2 Pilots & AAR operator
Unit Cost Undisclosed
Primary ContractorEADS
Date Deployed Estimated 2008
Inventory
Dimensions
Length193 ft59 m
Wingspan (to winglet tips)197 ft 10 in60.3m
Height57 ft 17.4m
Cargo
Weights
Dry
Loaded
Max. peace-time take-off Weight507,000 lb217,000 kg.
Powerplant
EnginesTwo Rolls-Royce Trent 700 or Two General Electric CF6-80 turbofan engines
Thrust71,000 lbf each316 kN each
Performance
Maximum speed540 kt Mach 0.82
Ferry range6,450 nm / Global, with in-flight refueling
Service ceiling41,000 ft12,500 m
Load

The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is a next generation aerial refueling tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330-200.

One of the greatest attiributes of the A330 as a tanker aircraft is its massive internal fuel capacity, the 111,000 kg / 122 tons of fuel is held in the wings which leaves the lower deck available for cargo. With underfloor tanks the fuel capacity can be further increased while retaining main deck cargo capacity or seating for strategic transport. Another major benefit is the fact that as the 2 engine A330 and 4 engine A340 share the same wing, the A330 MRTT can use the extra two wing hardpoints for refueling pods.

The aircraft has been selected by Australia (RAAF) and the UK (RAF) under its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) project. While the UK aircraft will operate solely in the probe and drogue role Australia's 5 jets will also be equipped with a refueling boom. The UK are seeking to replace their ageing Vickers VC10s and Tristar fleets while the RAAF are replacing their veteran 707 tanker/transports. Australia were initially to procure four aircraft with an option for a fifth, however the RAAF decided to procure the additional aircraft to allow two simultaneous deployments of two aircraft, with the fifth providing contingency cover.

EADS offered the A330 MRTT to the USAF to replace its KC-135 fleet. Initially rejected in favour of the KC-767, EADS is continuing to market the aircraft on the tails of a controversy in the U.S. over the KC-767 lease arrangements and higlighting its possible advantages over other designs. Part of the original rationale for rejecting the A330 in 2002, which has some greater attributes as a tanker than the 767, was that Airbus lacked experience in aerial refueling aircraft. Since then Airbus has been selected by both the UK and Australia and EADS will have operational experience of refueling booms before even the most demanding USAF in service date, those being flight tested on the Airbus A310 MRTT first.

During the 2004 Farnborough Air Show US Air Force Secretary James Roche stated that a further bid from EADS would be "welcome." It remains to be seen whether this is a change in attitude to the European manufacturer or a method to influence any future negotiations with Boeing.

Should EADS win the U.S. Air Force contract, it would be required to invest approximately US$600 million in a new assembly plant in the United States. Cities actively seeking consideration for the proposed plant include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida.

UK doubts

Following aircraft selection the UK MoD began exclusive negotiations with the Airtanker consortium. However, beginning in April 2004, there have been continuing rumours about the fragile state of the contract negotiations. This culminated in an ultimatium by the UK's Defence Procurement Agency, delivered to EADS, demanding a reduced price for the aircraft. With continuing doubts over the FSTA programme Marshall Aerospace, responsible for the conversion of the RAF's original Tristars, have offered to buy and convert some of the large number of surplus commercial Tristars. This would give the UK a much needed increase in capacity (with the upcoming retirement of the VC-10 fleet) at a fraction of the cost of the 13Bn FSTA project.

In a similar move Omega Air, which has provided aerial refueling aircraft to the US Navy, has offered the RAF a three point tanker version of the DC-10 (see also KC-10). Like the Tristar proposal this would take advantage of the large number of retired civil airliners.


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