Canadian and German air forces receive first two A310 air-to-air refuelling aircraft
Airbus has delivered the first two A310 Multi-Role Transport Tanker (MRTT) aircraft, marking a milestone in the European manufacturer's plans to be a major player in the multi-billion-dollar air-to-air refuelling market.
The Canadian and German air forces took delivery of their first aircraft in Dresden on 29 September. Canada has a second aircraft on order, and Germany three more. The 10-month certification programme involved 56 test flights and 174 flight hours, in which air-to-air refuelling was performed at altitudes of 5,000-35,000ft (1,520-10,700m) at speeds of up to Mach 0.84, using German Panavia Tornados and Swiss Boeing F-18s.
Rolf Ldemann, head of the A310 MRTT consortium, says a "slight oscillation of the hose and drogue system" was encountered during testing, but a solution was developed in 14 days.
A small aerodynamic spoiler has been installed on the upper rear of the wing-mounted hose/drogue pod ensuring "stability in all configurations, with flaps or speedbrakes deployed, and clean", says Ldemann.
The A310 MRTT is equipped with an auxiliary centre tank in the forward cargo hold and three in the aft hold, and has a trim tank in the horizontal stabiliser. The aircraft can be operated by three crew - two pilots and a refuelling operator seated at a dedicated station. It can deliver 45t of fuel at a range of 1,000km (800nm) and return to base.
The tanker conversion is offered by a consortium of Airbus and Lufthansa Technik (LHT). Three of the six aircraft ordered so far will be converted at EADS Elbe Flugzeugwerke in Dresden, and three at LHT in Hamburg.
Germany's aircraft are equipped for medical evacuation, while Canada's are configured to carry cargo on the main deck. "The A310 MRTT is ideal for customers requiring maximum versatility at minimum cost," says Richard Thompson, head of marketing for Airbus military platforms. Lüdemann adds that talks have been held with Brazil, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, among others, on possible future orders.
EADS Military Transport Aircraft Division is in talks with Australia, France and the UK over the more capable A330-based MRTT.
ANDREW DOYLE / DRESDEN
Source: Flight International