An Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fitted with the Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) yesterday successfully performed the first in-flight refuelling with two F16s from the Portuguese Air Force.
This first “wet contact” using the advanced in-house designed boom system demonstrates that the refuelling system is well integrated into the airframe, with all systems functioning satisfactorily. It also validates the fuel transfer capability of the A330 MRTT to receiver planes through this refuelling means, as tested on the ground in early September.
The flight lasted four hours and 30 minutes, during which a total of 13 contacts were performed,
with more than 1.5 tonnes of fuel being transferred.
The A330 MRTT used for the exercise is the first for the Royal Australian Air Force, which is
due to be handed over to the customer by mid 2010.
Flight test of the second A330 MRTT for Australia is progressing well in Brisbane where the aircraft has been modified by Qantas. The third aircraft is already in Brisbane, with conversion work due to start shortly. In total, five have been ordered by the RAAF, with another 23 by three other nations, bringing the total to 28 A330 MRTTs ordered.
The Airbus Military Boom is the most advanced refuelling system available today, and is unique
in its kind, the company says in a news statement.
Located underneath the rear fuselage of the tanker aircraft, it is remotely controlled
from a console in the cockpit, where an operator uses an advanced technology two – three
dimensional viewing system.
This gives safer operation and a reduced workload for the boom operator, while enabling the tanker crew to be located together. The boom is equipped with a full fly-by-wire flight control system which is unique in its kind, and has demonstrated outstanding handling qualities through the whole envelope.
Refuelling can be done at any altitude up to 35 000 ft while cruising at speeds between 180 and
325kt, in all weather, day or night, thanks, among others, to its stereoscopic vision and lighting
The fuel transfer rate of the boom is up to 1200 US gal/min (4,500 l/min) at 50 psi. “This high rate of transfer greatly reduces the refuelling operation time,” Airbus Military added.
The boom is 17m long when fully extended. It is equipped with an automatic load
alleviation system, has auto-disconnect envelope for each receiver, and has been designed
under the back-up concept (fail operational, fail safe). Secure communication is possible though
the boom. It requires on-condition maintenance only.
On- Ground refuelling tests through the conventional hose and drogue system had already
successfully been conducted in September, transferring more than 200 tonnes of fuel.
The MRTT is one of two Airbus Military products. The other is the A400M Loadmaster transport. Airbus Military is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EADS, the European defence giant.