Airbus Military A330 MRTT performs with F-18


The Airbus Military A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) has completed another major milestone performing successfully a series of wet contacts using the new generation Cobham 905E hose and drogue refuelling pods, located under the wings.

The receiver aircraft was a Spanish Air Force F/A-18A+ fighter.


This first “wet contact” using the advanced new generation pods 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 aircraft through this refuelling means, as tested on the ground in early September and with dry contacts late May.


On-ground refuelling tests through the conventional hose and drogue system had been conducted in September, transferring more than 200 metric tonnes of fuel.


With this new achievement the A330MRTT has demonstrated a total tanking capability as both boom and pods have been tested and have transferred fuel in flight. The testing will continue to complete full system certification.


This achievement is the initial step to clear the air-to air (AAR) operations for the UK’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme, which does implement the pod hose-and-drogue system and does not implement the boom system.


This new refuelling pod is a development of the 907E pod already in service with the Canadian and German air forces on their A310 MRTTs.


The pods can each deliver up to 420 US gal/min (1600 litres/min) through a 90 ft (27.4 m) hose, and are controlled from a state-of-the-art Fuel Operator Console located in the cockpit.


During the flight a total of six contacts were performed, with more than 4000kgs 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 was finished in Brisbane where the aircraft has been modified by Qantas and flown back to Spain to perform some final test flights jointly with the first one. The third aircraft is already in Brisbane, currently under conversion.


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 A330 MRTT has been selected by the air forces of Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and was chosen last year by the U.S. Air Force for its recapitalisation of the service’s aging tanker fleet.

Pic: Airbus A330 MRTT