Airbus Military bullish on A330 MRTT sales prospects

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Airbus Military is targeting sales of up to 50 more A330-based multi-role tanker transports (MRTT) outside the USA, as it prepares to step up flight-testing of the first aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.

A draft request for proposals for the latest iteration of the US Air Force's long-standing KC-X requirement, covering at least 100 aircraft, is also expected soon.

Sales of the A330 MRTT stand at 28 - for Australia (five), Saudi Arabia (six), the United Arab Emirates (three) and the UK (14).

"In terms of potential market, there are probably 40 or 50 tanker sales still to go around the world," says Airbus Military vice-president defence capability marketing, Peter Scoffham.

"We're in discussions with South Korea, Singapore, India [and nations in] the Middle East and North Africa. That doesn't mean we're going to get contracts, but obviously those nations want to know what is available."

 
 

Scoffham also lists Brazil and France as prospects, and the UAE is looking at a follow-on order.

The MRTT is being offered with the option of a forward main deck cargo door. This was a feature included in the previous Northrop Grumman/EADS North America A330-based KC-X offer selected by the USAF but subsequently overturned after an appeal by Boeing. The door has drawn interest from Australia, Brazil and France, says Airbus Military head of derivative programmes, Miguel Morell.

Morell does not expect stiff competition outside the USA from Boeing with its KC-767A. "We are going to get all the market," he claims. "We don't have competition today, to be honest."

Military certification of the A330 MRTT is targeted for April following up to 120 test flights, of which 57 have been completed. Handover of the first aircraft to the RAAF, following conversion in Madrid, is due in mid-2010. Australia's remaining aircraft are being converted in Brisbane.

The first MRTT for Saudi Arabia will be converted at EADS's Getafe site near Madrid, and the rest in Riyadh or Jeddah. All three UAE aircraft will be modified in Spain. The first two UK aircraft are being worked on in Getafe, with the remaining 12 to be converted in Bournemouth, southern England.

For KC-X, the USAF's requirements will dictate whether the Northrop/EADS bid will be baselined on the passenger or freighter version of the A330-200. "It could be passenger aircraft, freighters or [a combi version]," says Morell.