France has ordered eight Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTT), from an eventual requirement for 12 of the type worth a total €3 billion ($3.3 billion).Paris had already committed to one example in June, with the remainder to be signed for by 2018. The initial aircraft is expected to be delivered to the French air force in in 2018, with further handovers of one or two per year until 2025.
Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, the French MRTTs will carry both an Airbus refuelling boom system and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. They can also be reconfigured to carry 271 passengers as a transport aircraft.
Additionally, in a medical evacuation role, the aircraft will be equipped with the Morphee intensive care module, which can carry 10 patients and 88 passengers.
Airbus says seven nations have ordered the type – Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and the UK – with 49 ordered and 26 delivered.
Airbus Defence & Space
In April, President Francois Hollande announced that the nation's defence budget would increase by €3.8 billion between 2016 and 2020, to counter the threat from Islamic extremism. The French air force has, since September, been conducting offensive operations in Syria against Islamic State, extending the remit of its Operation Chammal, which seeks to counter the rise of the terrorist organisation.
That operation, alongside commitments in Africa, has increased demand on France's aircraft fleet.
Paris has been the target of multiple terrorist attacks in 2015, with the most recent taking place on 13 November.