PICTURE: RAF's first A330 tanker nears flight test

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The UK Royal Air Force's first A330 multi-role tanker/transport has emerged from a modification hangar at Airbus Military's Getafe site near Madrid, Spain, ahead of flight-testing from later this month.

One of 14 adapted A330-200s scheduled for use under the RAF's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project, the platform has recently completed indoor system trials and will soon be handed over to Airbus Military's flight-test team, the company says.

Equipped with underwing hose and drogue refuelling pods and also to carry a centreline fuselage refuelling unit which has yet to be installed, the aircraft is one of two to have been modified for RAF use since July 2009 by Airbus Military. The service's remaining examples will be prepared by Cobham Aviation Services at its Bournemouth airport facilities in Dorset from late next year.

 
© Airbus Military

EADS UK-led AirTanker Services is on track to hand over the RAF's first new tanker/transport in October 2011, under a private finance initiative deal worth an estimated £13 billion ($20 billion).

Meanwhile, Airbus is still awaiting the approval of military type certification for the A330 MRTT from Spain's INTA body. The milestone - expected “very shortly” - is required before the company can deliver its first two of five boom-equipped aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force late this year.