Airbus demonstrates A330 MRTT capability for automatic refueling of F-15 fighter jets

Gastón Dubois

A330 MRTT F-15

Airbus and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) collaborated to successfully complete the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and F-15 fighter automatic flight refueling (A3R) test campaign, a capability that will be certified in the first half of 2024.

Over the course of three weeks in August, an RSAF A330 MRTT made more than 500 automated wet and dry contacts with the Air Force’s entire fleet of receiver aircraft, including the F-15SG aircraft, a customized variant of the U.S.-made F-15E Strike Eagle air-to-ground fighter.

“The A330 MRTT has made the future of air-to-air refuelling a reality as a result of the joint efforts of Airbus and the Republic of Singapore Air Force,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. “This new milestone will enable the RSAF to become the first Air Force in the world to have a boom automatic refuelling capability with all of its receivers, a capability that can be extended to refuelling receivers from other nations”.

The flight tests with F-15SG were conducted in Singapore, covering the whole operational AAR envelope in different weather conditions under the supervision of the Spanish certifying authority, called INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology)..

Automatic nighttime air-to-air refueling

During the test campaign, more flights were conducted in night conditions, not only with F-15s, but also with RSAF F-16s as receivers for the MRTTs for data collection, to complete the development and enable night capabilities with the automatic system.

A330 MRTT Airbus Defence and Space

In July 2022, the A330 MRTT became the world’s first tanker certified for automatic air-to-air refuelling operations in daylight conditions with F-16s and A330 MRTTs as receivers.

The automatic refuelling system reduces air-refuelling operator workload, improves safety and optimises the air-to-air refuelling transfer rate in operational conditions to maximise air superiority.

With a “wink” to the USAF

Lockheed Martin proposal to the USAF for an A330 MRTT to be built in the USA.

The certification of the A330 MRTT for automatic in-flight day and night refueling for the F-15 and F-16 is particularly important for both Airbus Defence and Lockheed Martin, as the two companies partnered to offer this aircraft to the U.S. Air Force for the “Bridge Tanker” (formerly KC-Y) program, which envisages the purchase of at least 75 new tanker aircraft.

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