The purchase of the MRTT A330 type aircraft is an important contribution in addressing the scarce tanker and transport capability of the European Union in particular. In addition to refuelling aircraft and strategic transports, MRTT aircraft can also be used for carrying out medical evacuations, if necessary in intensive care units.
The fleet will be NATO property. The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European materiel organisation Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement (OCCAR) are closely involved in the purchase of the aircraft, on behalf on the NATO Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA). Luxembourg and the Netherlands will have exclusive user rights. In addition to the purchase, the MRTT project also covers maintenance and operational deployment. The Netherlands is the lead nation in this multinational collaboration project.
The new aircraft will be stationed at Eindhoven Air Base. The Netherlands will also be responsible for registering the aircraft and monitoring their airworthiness. A study will be carried out to determine whether European Air Transport Command, which is also stationed in Eindhoven, will be able to supervise the MRTT pool.
Costs and personnel will be allocated on the basis of the number of flying hours that each country needs. The expected life span of the fleet is 30 years and the investment budget is between €250 million and €1 billion.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg recorded the agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The contract with Airbus was signed today. If Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland decide to take part in the agreement, both the MoU and the quotation given by Airbus allow for expansion. If more countries do indeed decide to join, the design costs will be shared with these countries too, leading to lower costs for Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The number of A330 MRTT aircraft to be purchased could eventually rise to 8. According to the National Aerospace Laboratory, Eindhoven Air Base has sufficient room for manoeuvre in its allotted noise zones to accommodate 8 A330 MRTT aircraft.
The 2 participating countries are examining the possibility of collaboration with France and the United Kingdom, among others, in relation to training and instruction as well as maintenance. France is set to receive its first A330 aircraft in 2018. The United Kingdom already has A330 MRTTs in service.
The 2 aircraft will be delivered from 2020. In the same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will start to gradually decommission its 2 KDC-10 aircraft. This will ensure that tanker/transport capability will remain available to the Netherlands Defence organisation.