Airbus Sees Progress, and a Setback, for A330MRTT

 - February 4, 2011, 5:45 AM

Airbus Military has flight-tested the fuselage refueling unit (FRU) of the A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) for the first time. The Cobham-supplied FRU is a hose-and-drogue system that is fitted to the version destined for the UK Royal Air Force as its future strategic tanker aircraft (FSTA). It transfers fuel at a greater rate than the underwing hose-and-drogue units that Cobham supplies for all A330MRTTs. In the test, one of two FSTA versions now flying passed fuel to a pair of Spanish air force F-18 fighters.

But in another test flight from Getafe, Madrid, last month, the air-refueling boom of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330MRTT (or KC-30A) broke during contact with a Portuguese Air Force F-16. Both aircraft were damaged but landed safely.

The RAAF was the launch customer for the A330MRTT, but no delivery dates have yet been agreed. The hangar that they will occupy at RAAF Amberley, near Brisbane, was flooded last month, which may cause a further delay. Four of the five KC-30As are currently in Madrid. They are 01 (with flight-test instrumentation), 02, 03 and 05. The last is a green aircraft from Toulouse awaiting ferry to Australia for conversion by Qantas Defense Services (QDS) at Brisbane, where 04 is already being converted. QDS also converted 03, but it was flown back to Europe to join the flight-test program.