French Air Force Deploys Airbus A330 MRTT Phénixs in Coronavirus Battle
French Air Force Deploys Airbus A330 MRTT Phénixs in Coronavirus Battle

French Air Force Deploys Airbus A330 MRTT Phénixs in Coronavirus Battle

Since March 18, the French Air Force has conducted six missions on its territory evacuating patients with the A330 MRTT “Phénix” fitted with the Morphée module for the transport of intensive care patients in this type of aircraft. The abbreviation Morphée is the French name of the god of sleep, Morpheus, and stands for “Module de réanimation pour patient à haute élongation d’évacuation” or a module allowing the professional evacuation of intensive care patients in a military plane. The A330 MRTT flights have been conducted within the framework of operation Résilience. The Air Force has employed several of its aircraft and helicopters in support of operation Résilience. This operations represents the French Armed Forces’ contribution to fighting COVID-19 in France.

Patientes are being trasnferred into the A330 MRTT. Photo Erwin Bouteillier, French Air Force.
Patientes are being trasnferred into the A330 MRTT. Photo Erwin Bouteillier, French Air Force.

The module allows the Air Force to transform a military plane originally designed for cargo and passenger transport or air-to-air refuelling into a real flying hospital with an intensive care unit.The module enables the Air Force to transport six to 12 seriously wounded patients ove a distance of 10,000 km. The certification of the new strategic enabler on the A330 Phénix has now allowed the French Air Force to use it in the fight against the COVID-19. In December 2019, the French Air Force certified the Morphée module for use in the A330 Phénix. Morphée was developed to provide the armed forces with an aeromedical evacuation capacity over long distances to allow transportation of seriously wounded personnel from out-of-area missions.

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Medical support personnel and ground crew preparing the transfer of intensive care patients to a French Air Force A330 MRTT fitted with the Morphée module. Photo by Erwin Bouteillier, French Air force
Medical support personnel and ground crew preparing the transfer of intensive care patients to a French Air Force A330 MRTT fitted with the Morphée module. Photo by Erwin Bouteillier, French Air force

The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330. A version of the A330 MRTT, the EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45, was proposed to the United States Air Force.The A330 MRTT has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), French Air Force (Armée de l’Air), United Arab Emirates Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), and others. A total of 12 nations have placed firm orders for approximately 60 aircraft, of which 42 had been delivered by 31 January 2020.

Setup of the A330 with ambulance cars to begin medical evacuation of intensive care patient in support France's fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy French Air Force
Setup of the A330 with ambulance cars to begin medical evacuation of intensive care patient in support France’s fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy French Air Force

In France, the A330 MRTT, locally named Phénix, was declared fully operational on October 3, and the air force has taken delivery of the first full medevac kit for the upper deck of the aircraft. A standard kit comprises two intensive care units, 16 stretchers, and seating for 21 medical staff plus 96 passenger seats. The Phénix fleet is assigned to the Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (strategic air forces) with a primary mission of supporting the ASMP-armed Rafales that provide France’s airborne nuclear deterrent. However, secondary missions such as strategic transport, deployment support, and peacetime refueling training take up most of the aircraft’s’ time. The fleet was brought in as part of the French health ministry’s coronavirus response strategy to reduce pressure on hospitals in the most-affected areas.

Setup of the A330 with ambulance cars to begin medical evacuation of intensive care patient in support France's fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy French Air Force
Setup of the A330 with ambulance cars to begin medical evacuation of intensive care patient in support France’s fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy French Air Force
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