The UAE Ministry of Defence announced its first major orders of the Dubai Airshow on Sunday. In terms of major hardware, the headline announcement centered on the acquisition of two A330 MRTT multi-role tanker transports from Airbus Defence and Space. The value of the deal totals AED2.468 billion ($670 million) and the aircraft are due for delivery in 2024.
"Since its entry into service in 2013 with the UAE Air Force, the A330 MRTT has delivered much more than initially expected, meeting our customer’s operational needs," said Bernhard Brenner, executive v-p of marketing and sales at Airbus Defence and Space. "This repeat order, added to the growing MRTT customer base, confirms the suitability of our platform as the world’s tanker of reference."
The UAE already operates three A330-243 MRTTs, a contract for which it signed in February 2008. The first of the Rolls-Royce Trent 700-powered aircraft was delivered on February 6, 2013, and all three had been handed over by August that year. The aircraft are configured with an air refueling boom system (ARBS) for receivers such as the F-16, C-17, and other A330s, and two Cobham 905E underwing hose-drogue units for passing fuel to probe-equipped receivers such as the Mirage 2000. The UAE’s tankers have a unique secondary boom retraction hoist that can stow the boom if the primary system fails. The fleet has been active in supporting UAE operations and in providing deployment support for exercise detachments. In the latter role, the A330 can refuel fighters en route while carrying ground crew, spares, and support equipment.
A few days prior to the announcement Airbus received a formal order to convert three ex-Iberia A330s to MRTT standard for the Spanish air force. Spain has become the ninth customer for the A330MRTT, joining Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, UAE, UK, and NATO’s multinational MRTT fleet. The global fleet of 51 MRTTs has now flown more than 250,000 hours.