The first Airbus A330 future strategic tanker aircraft (FSTA) for the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) made its first flight after conversion on September 13. Three days later, the British legislature published a report that heavily criticized the $16 billion-plus procurement of the RAF’s new tankers via a private finance initiative (PFI).
Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft
Last week, Vince Cable, the business secretary in the new British government, heavily criticized the supply of 14 A330MRTTs to the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a private finance initiative (PFI). He told The Sunday Times that the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) is “a massively expensive and unnecessary commitment.”
Northrop Grumman’s defensive systems division has been awarded a $93 million contract to supply its large aircraft infrared countermeasures system for the RAF’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft program. The systems will be supplied to Thales UK, one of the members of the AirTanker consortium that is supplying 14 A330-200 aircraft for the FSTA requirement.
The intense debate over the U.S. Air Force’s choice of a new tanker continues. Boeing claimed that the KC-767 was found to be “more survivable” than the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) in the USAF evaluation. Northrop Grumman launched a new Web site to refute various allegations about its A330MRTT bid and ask why Boeing did not raise concerns about the selection process earlier.
EADS-Airbus said it would produce the A330-200 freighter on the same production line in Mobile, Ala., as the KC-30 tanker, if the U.S. Air Force selects that aircraft for its KC-X requirement. Northrop Grumman is bidding the KC-30 against the Boeing 767 tanker, and the Pentagon is due to announce its long-awaited choice at the end of this month.
EADS Military Transport Aircraft (MTA) has set its sights on half of the aerial-refueling-tanker market estimated at 600 aircraft for 30 countries over the next 20 years and has brought the first of four A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) airframes for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) here to underline its capability in the field.
It has been a busy year for the Airbus Military A400M program, which has seen the first major components of the European airlifter reach the final assembly site at Seville, Spain, the first run of the TP400-D6 turboprop at Istres, France and–until the beginning of March–the successful achievement of all critical milestones.
Bloodied and bruised by the U.S. Air Force tanker fiasco, Boeing has fought back this week by bringing the first KC-767A to the Paris show. But yet another damning report on the aborted U.S. lease deal has not only further tarnished the company’s reputation but also cast doubt on whether the Pentagon really needs a new fleet of tankers anytime soon.
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