Further to our report on the presentation of the Airbus A330 MRTT to the two main Belgian television channels, we are giving hereunder further information and pictures from Belgian Defence about the aircraft and the presentation flight.
The Airbus A330 MRTT: a good all-rounder!
Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands does not only serve as a home base for all Dutch Air Force transport planes. Several countries are also consolidating their military transport capacities there. This base is home to a number of international organisations including NATO’s Movement Coordination Center Europe (MCCE) and the European Air Transport Command (EATC). The latter plans the deployment of transport planes from participating countries including Belgium. The latest unit is the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) which is unique in that it has its own fleet of supply and transport aircraft used by six NATO partners. Belgian Defence is making an important contribution to this with an aircraft and personnel.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, this new international unit, which also employs around 40 Belgian military, has not remained inactive. MMU has already received two of the nine Airbus A330 Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT), the first of which arrived on June 30, about five months ago. This international unit is awaiting the third aircraft, which will soon be delivered in “medical evacuation” configuration. In addition to the reception and entry into service of these aircraft, flights have also been carried out intensively and the crew are ready for the very first training flight with passengers. “We are taking you because we are there!”
“Welcome to our multinational refuelling unit at Eindhoven Air Base. Today we will be making the first passenger training flight in our Airbus A330 MRTT. You have the honour of being the first officials,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Kurt Deprez, chief of flight operations, by way of introduction. In addition to this position, Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Deprez is also a pilot on the Airbus A330 MRTT. As SNR (senior national representative), he is responsible for all Belgian personnel employed on the airbase. “All of our crews, both pilots and cabin crew, are not yet qualified. So there will be additional members as well as instructors on board to support and assess their counterparts in training. Come on, I’ll show you the plane,” Kurt continued, approaching the plane.
“This machine is 58.8 m long and 60.3 m wide and is equipped with two Rolls-Royce engines each with a thrust of 72,000 pounds. This thrust allows a maximum takeoff weight of up to 233 tonnes, including 110 tonnes of kerosene, and a cruising speed of 880 km / h. For the execution of air-to-air refuelling missions, we have two systems: the advanced refuelling pole system located at the rear and the refuelling by pipe and probe via the pods placed under each wing. Thanks to them, we can refuel all NATO fighter jets. Besides this main mission, we can also carry 267 passengers and 45 tonnes of cargo on the plane. In addition, one of the nine machines will be configured for medical evacuations. This aircraft will be equipped with six intensive care units, 16 stretchers and 21 chairs for medical support,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Deprez, “so this plane is a real all-rounder.”
Six countries (The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Norway, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg) are part of the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit. In addition to the MRTT fleet’s home base at Eindhoven Air Base (Netherlands), Cologne Air Base in Germany will serve as a hub where three A330 MRTTs will be based, including the medical evacuation aircraft. The unit’s initial operational capability (IOC) is scheduled for the third quarter of 2021 and its final operational capability (FOC) for summer 2023. Delivery of the ninth and final aircraft is scheduled for late 2024.
When Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Deprez took the helm of the Airbus, we were in the cabin. As a passenger, we do not feel any difference from a civilian airliner. It is surprising how this machine can conceal its versatility. The boom operator has a place in the cockpit and is therefore not visible. The interior is comfortable and its noise level is what you would expect from a modern aircraft. After a pleasant flight over Germany, we headed for Brussels National Airport for a low-level approach. As the go-around took place, we saw the aircraft’s enormous power and manoeuvrability. This first flight will have confirmed to us that over the next few years, the A330 MRTT will make more than its contribution to the peace and security missions devolved to the Belgian Defence and to Europe throughout the world.
November 12, 2020
Text and pictures: Jo Vanden Broeck in BelDefNews