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New tankers to take on many roles

The sight you might see in the not-too-distant future: an A330 refuels a JSF.

The sight you might see in the not-too-distant future: an A330 refuels a JSF.

The A330

Refuelling Capacity:
111 tonnes Offload performance: 65 tonnes at 1000nm from base with 2 hours on station

Dimensions Overall length:
58.8m Wing span: 60.3m Height: 17.38m

Weights Maximum take-off weight:
233 tonnes Maximum landing weight: 180 tonnes

Engine Power:
32,659kg thrust


Five new air-to-air refuelling aircraft will replace the B707 from late 2008.

The A330 MRTT will support a wider range of aircraft and boost passenger and cargo capability.

No. 33 Squadron will operate the A330 and RAAF Base Amberley is considered to be the main operating base.


DEFENCE has signed a $1.4 billion contract with Spanish company EADS CASA to supply the Air Force with five new air-to-air refuelling aircraft that No. 33 Squadron will operate.

The aircraft, to replace the Boeing 707, will be known as the multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) and will significantly upgrade the Air Force’s air-to-air refuelling capabilities.

With a fuel capacity 50 per cent greater than the B707, the A330 MRTT will be able to offload 90,000 litres of fuel while on station at 1000 nautical miles from base.

Two A330 MRTTs can escort a squadron of F/A-18s with the required support personnel and equipment from the east to west coasts of Australia.

This currently requires three B707 and two C-130 aircraft to perform the same function. The A330 MRTT will be fitted with an advanced “boom” refuelling system as well as a hose and drogue system, similar to that employed on the B707.

The “boom” will enable the A330 MRTT to refuel the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control, Joint Strike Fighter and F-111, while the hose will support the F/A-18.

The inclusion of the “boom” system allows Australia to support a wider range of coalition aircraft, increasing opportunities for joint exercises and international operations.

The A330 MRTT also represents a significant increase in the ADF’s passenger/troop transport capability. The aircraft can carry up to 272 passengers, compared with 152 passengers for the B707.

The lower holds of the aircraft can carry cargo in either military pallets or commercial containers.

It can also accommodate eight standard military pallets or 26 civil LD3 containers. Based on the Airbus A330-200 civil airliner, the A330 MRTT will be modified for air-to-air refuelling, military avionics and electronic warfare self-protection systems.

Delivery of the five aircraft will be phased over two years, starting from late 2008.

Operations will start with two aircraft in the second half of 2009 with the remaining aircraft entering service by the end of 2010. The Air Lift Group will manage the refuellers’ transition into service.

Transition team director Group Captain Stephen Bucholtz said the establishment of a transition team at the outset underpinned Air Force commitment to the tanker program.

“This will enable Air Force to more effectively manage the exceedingly complex task of implementing a new weapon system and achieve the required level of capability in an acceptable time frame,” he said, also noting the proposed move of No. 33 Squadron from Richmond.

While a final decision for the location of the A330 MRTT has not been made, for planning purposes, RAAF Base Amberley is considered to be the main operating base.




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