France Air Force Airbus A330 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker
France Air Force Airbus A330 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker

French Air Force Orders Three Additional A330 to Modify to MRTT Tankers

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the order by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) on August 25, 2020 of three Airbus A330 aircraft as part of the government plan to support the aeronautical industry announced on June 9. These three A330s will be eventually be converted into Phoenix MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) military aircraft. They will then complement the 12 MRTTs expected to be in service by 2023, bringing the French Air Force’s MRTT fleet to 15 aircraft, in accordance with the final objective fixed by the multiyear Military Planning Law (LPM). The first two aircraft will be delivered at the end of 2020, and the third in 2022. The contract is worth 200 million euros.

In November 2011, France expressed interest in acquiring 14 A330 MRTTs to replace its KC-135 tankers, A340 and A310 transports; one year later, it was announced that 14 would be ordered in 2013. In May 2013, Airbus made an offer for 12 to 14 A330 MRTTs to France.[67] On 20 February 2014, the French Chief of Staff stated that 12 A330 MRTTs would be acquired in two batches, an initial standard configuration with a boom and wing refuelling pods and later with a cargo door and SATCOM. On 15 December 2015, France ordered eight A330 MRTTs, constituting the second tranche of a multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs, worth €3 billion ($3.3 billion), signed by the French Ministry of Defence in November 2014.

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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

Initial deliveries were expected in 2018, with further handovers of one or two per year until 2025. In September 2018, the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) announced plans to speed up delivery of the A330 MRTT Phénix, as it is known in French service, by two years, planning for the last of 12 aircraft to be delivered in 2023 rather than 2025. In addition, the DGA stated that the fleet would be later increased to 15 aircraft.[71][72] Later in September, the French Air Force received the first A330 MRTT as per the existing timetable. On 13 December 2018, France ordered another three A330 MRTTs of a third tranche of the multi-year contract; these are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with the ARBS and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods.

The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330. It is designed as a dual-role air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft. A total of 12 nations have placed firm orders for approximately 60 aircraft, of which 42 had been delivered by 31 January 2020. The A330 MRTT cabin can be modified to carry up to 380 passengers in a single class configuration, allowing a complete range of configurations from maximised troop transport to complex customisation suitable for VIP and guest missions. The A330 MRTT can also be configured to perform Medical Evacuation (Medevac) missions; up to 130 standard stretchers can be carried.

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