Completion of German A310 MRTT comes as EADS awaits UK decision on A330 proposal

EADS has rolled out the first Airbus aircraft equipped for air-to-air refuelling at its Elbe Flugzeugwerke facility in Dresden, Germany.

Meanwhile, the company is starting to discuss options for simplifying the organisational structure of its military transport interests, which include derivatives of the Airbus A310 and A330 airliners, EADS Casa turboprops and the Airbus Military A400M.

The Airbus A310 Multi-Role Transport Tanker (MRTT) - developed by Airbus Deutschland and Lufthansa Technik (LHT)- is due to have its first flight later this month and be delivered to the German air force in May 2004. Germany has ordered four aircraft - of which three will be converted by LHT in Hamburg - and Canada two.

The A310 MRTT is fitted with the same Flight Refuelling Mk32-900 hose-and-drogue system as that proposed by the EADS-led AirTanker consortium for A330-200-based tankers being offered to the UK.

Competing against AirTanker is the rival Tanker & Transport Service Company - a consortium comprising BAE Systems, Boeing, Serco and Spectrum Capital offering ex-British Airways Boeing 767-300ERs.

The UK is due to announce its decision by the end of the year and company sources say a win by AirTanker could prompt EADS to look at reorganising its Military Transport Aircraft Division (MTAD) to more closely align its sales, marketing and engineering activities with those of Airbus Military, the A400M programme company in which it is the major shareholder.

Madrid-headquartered MTAD's product line-up includes the A310 and A330 MRTTs and EADS Casa C-212, CN-235 and C-295. Meanwhile, Toulouse-based Airbus Military has EADS, Airbus (itself 80% owned by EADS), Belgium's Flabel and Turkish Aerospace Industries as shareholders.

Company sources say one option would be to create initially a single sales and marketing entity for all of the products, and eventually bring MTAD and Airbus Military under a single holding company. MTAD, EADS Casa and Airbus Military already share a common president, Spaniard Francisco Fernández Sáinz.

Airbus chief operating officer Gustav Humbert says up to 1,400 military transports worldwide will need replacing "in the next few years", including tankers, AWACS, maritime patrol and VIP aircraft, and EADS expects to secure "at least 50%" of the market.

Source: Flight International