The Republic of Singapore Air Force's six Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft attained full operational capability (FOC) on April 20, giving it an unprecedented strategic airlift capability in the Southeast Asia region. The aircraft fly with 112 Squadron at Changi-East airbase, where the first was unveiled in September 2018.
Compared to the KC-135R Stratotanker that it was acquired to replace, the MRTT can carry 20 percent more fuel, twice the cargo, and five times more passengers. It can also provide more and better medical care provisions for an aeromedical evacuation flight, with a specialized harness and power source for up to three intensive care unit patients, or 12 light care patients on stretchers. In the KC-135R, the aeromedical team had to bring its own power banks, and stretchers and beds were strapped to the floorboards.
Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) has also looked at streamlining workflow processes, and the RSAF has successfully reduced the A330 MRTT operating crew size from four to three, removing the mission coordinator role. This crew configuration is now approved and certified by Airbus for other MRTT operators. DSTA was also involved in the development and certification of the boom flight control law for the F-15SG, which was known to be an issue during the initial stages of tests. Singapore’s MRTTs are also part of the SMART MRTT joint collaboration with Airbus, which aims to develop an autonomous tanking capability for a planned certification later this year.
Another new capability for the MRTT is the tanker-to-tanker refueling feature, which allows the RSAF to potentially deploy assets around the globe without stop-overs, and also to recover aircraft from their overseas training bases. “For our fighter aircraft, the MRTT provides the capacity to reach faraway parts of the globe and, correspondingly, assurance that we would be to recover our assets from anywhere in the world, where the situation warrants. That is a real source of reassurance,” said defense minister Dr Ng Eng Hen at the FOC ceremony.