Airbus Defence and Space announced at the Singapore Airshow on Wednesday that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will become the launch customer for the company’s Automatic Air Refuelling (A3R) system on its A330-based Multi-role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet.
Singapore is the lead customer for the ‘second wave’ of MRTTs, based on the latest version of the civil Airbus A330-200 classic engine option (CEO) and the A3R system is expected to be certified in 2021.
The RAAF has participated significantly in the flight test campaign for the system, which is designed to reduce Air Refuelling Operator (ARO) workload and improve safety, while optimising the rate of fuel transfer under operational conditions.
“With this agreement, the Singapore Air Force leads the next evolution of the A330 MRTT, helping us to bring new hands-off capabilities to the benchmark of next-generation tanker operations,” said Alberto Gutiérrez, Airbus head of Military Aircraft.
Singapore is receiving six aircraft, the first of which touched own on the island state in August 2018. The first aircraft to be modified will also feature enhanced maintenance equipment, which will allow maintenance personnel to use the upgraded MRTT’s systems to troubleshoot problems from the flight deck.
The first demonstration of the A3R system was performed by Airbus DS in July 2018, with a dry contact between the manufacturer’s A310 MRTT testbed and a Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter.
Australian KC-30As, which are very similar to the baseline MRTT, visited the manufacturer’s facility in Getafe, Spain, on a number of occasions in recent times to act as a large receiver for flight testing using the A310 MRTT testbed as the tanker. Airbus Defence & Space achieved seven automated contacts between the A310 and an RAAF KC-30A during the flight test program.
The RAAF is known to be watching the A3R certification process and has previously expressed a desire to acquire the system for its seven KC-30As.
An in-depth report on RAAF KC-30A operations will appear in the March issue of ADM.