[Paris Airshow] “Meet & Greet with Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Crew”

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Authors and Photo Credits Benoît Denet / Martin Gillet 

A look back at the Paris Airshow held on June 2019. We had the opportunity to ‘Meet & Greet’ up close with Airbus A330 MRTT along with a detailed interview with the Crew.

© Martin Gillet

Location Paris Le Bourget, A330 MRTT 042.

© Martin Gillet

Some background information in order to set the context: As you might recall in March 2018 we reported that “Belgium participation expands Multinational MRTT Fleet to eight aircraft” (Barth Noëth). Also, in December 2018, we reported that “France orders three more Airbus A330 MRTT tankers” (André Orban).

We also reported on July 2019 (André Orban) that “Sabena technics acquires Airbus A330 MRTT rating approval”, which is a good news for Belgium.

“A330 MRTT : The 21st century benchmark for new generation tanker/transport aircraft”. 

Spotted onsite during the 2019 Paris Airshow, Airbus Defence reports that: “The A330 MRTT is the most capable new generation tanker & transport aircraft with unique multi-role capabilities. At Paris Airshow we have displayed the 2nd Armée de l’Air (France) Phénix configured in medical evacuation AND with tanker capabilities.”

We had a fruitful time interviewing the A330 MRTT Crew. For obvious privacy and security matters, name and rank will not be disclosed. We aligned a few questions in order to better apprehend the A330 MRTT capabilities.

(Aviation24) What is the capacity of the aircraft?

(MRTT Crew) “We have a capacity of 272 seats and two configurations for the Med Evac. The first CM30 with up to forty stretchers (as seen at Le Bourget) with monitoring for moderately impacted injuries and a second for heavy evacuations with passengers who are much more heavily affected.

© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet

Regarding the onboard fuel, we are on 111 tonnes capacity, which is the capacity of a civilian A330. So there are no additional tanks in the hold such as on a KC-10 for example. If we compare with our KC-135, we had a capacity of 88 tonnes of onboard fuel. In order to ease the question of plane cell ageing, we took a little less. On the other hand, consumption has increased slightly.”

(Aviation24) At which rate will the Airbus MRTT be introduced into the French Air Force ?

(MRTT Crew) “The first aircraft is scheduled to come into service in October 2019 and we are currently in a 12-month experimental phase. This being the 002 that is delivered next week (Aviation24: read June 2019) and the third is planned for 2020. This is a sequence of one delivery per year and as of 2021 there will be three per year.”

© Martin Gillet

(Aviation24) Can you tell us more about the crew ?

(MRTT Crew) “We have two pilots and an operator for refuelling if it’s a refuelling mission;  with his workstation just behind the cockpit. If necessary we can embark a cabin crew. We can operate refuelling with both systems: the rigid boom and the flexible “probe-and-drug” system.”

© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Martin Gillet
© Benoît Denet
© Benoît Denet
© Benoît Denet

(Aviation24) What are the current checks being performed ?

(MRTT Crew) “These tests consist of operational adaptation(s). The plane arrived certified and qualified by the DGA and then we accepted it. We will train the crews, write the procedures and test them. (maintenance and flight procedures). This does not change much for the aircraft that will be refuelling. For them we just edited a little manual to know the differences with other tanker aircraft. In this respect, for example, the A400M can not refuel with the MRTT, they refuel themselves one to another. This is due to challenges of aerodynamic turbulences.
Our MRTTs can not be refuelled in flight, the French army did not take this option and we are not aware if the NATO version has it.”

(Aviation24) What are the main differences with the “old” KC-135?

(MRTT Crew) “The MRTT can take off heavier on shorter runways. Communications systems are very advanced with among other things satellite communications or ACARS that we did not have on the KC-135. On the other hand, e do not yet have systems of self-defence but it is planned in the future with the arrival of standard 2 by 2025. The technique is not yet defined.
From the point of view of onboard fuel, we can give you an operational idea: on a typical OPEX mission in the Sahel as we do today, we will have the capacity to deliver three hours more autonomy to a Rafale patrol than with a KC-135. Which is considerable.

Some facts and figures as per Airbus Defence Tweet during the 2019 Paris Air Show :

During the 2019 Paris Airshow, interesting news also came from Elbit Systems which stated that: “NATO, Airbus & Elbit Systems Ltd have successfully executed integration of J-MUSIC™ #DIRCM self-protection system onboard #A330MRTT aircraft of NATO’s MMF.”

The aircraft is set to be a major milestone for all parties involved. You can follow the up to date information as it gets released. For example, on August 6th, 2019, Airbus Defence on Twitter shared this update :

 

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