Airbus Military is promising more A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) conversion work for Australia if its government purchases 10 C-295 transports and a sixth MRTT.

"As a quid pro quo, the acceptance of both offers [by Australia] would allow Airbus Military to commit to additional MRTT work in Australia for international customers, including deep level maintenance/MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul], thanks to a secure industrial base," says Airbus Military.

In Australia, Qantas Defence Services in Brisbane has played a key role in A330 MRTT conversions for the Royal Australian Air Force, with the service's fifth and final aircraft currently being modified.

Airbus Military adds that a combined purchase of 10 C-295s - to fulfil Australia's AIR 8000 Phase 2 requirement - and a sixth A330 MRTT would be A$300 million ($314 million) cheaper than a proposed $950 million acquisition of 10 L-3 Communications C-27Js, long held to be Canberra's preference.

Airbus Military believes that Canberra could make a decision on AIR 8000 Phase 2 in the first half of 2012.

If Australia accepts Airbus Military's unsolicited offer for a sixth A330 MRTT - designated the KC-30A in Royal Australian Air Force service - then the sixth tanker could be delivered in November 2013.

Airbus Military did not provide estimates of how many A330 MRTT conversions Qantas Defence can expect if Australia buys both the C-295 and a sixth A330 MRTT.

"[The number of conversions] would depend on decisions on aircraft numbers taken by potential MRTT customers in Asia such as Singapore and India, and other regional defence forces," says Airbus Military. "We nevertheless foresee building at least a couple of export units in Australia - a seventh and eighth conversion - if both offers are taken up."

Although Canberra is believed to favour the C-27J for the AIR 8000 Phase 2 requirement, this has been thrown into doubt by the 26 January proposal by the US Air Force to divest its C-27J capability under a round of sweeping budget cuts.

Source: Flight International