For the first time, Norwegian F-35s has been refueled by an Airbus A330 tanker (MRTT). The tanker-cooperation with NATO is important for the Armed Forces and the F-35s increasing the endurance of the fighter aircraft. MRTT stands for Multi Role Tanker Transport and is a tanker that Norway dispose through a strategic partnership. The tanker-aircraft is an important strategic resource for our air operations to ensure access to fuel in air so that our F-35s can fly longer. The F-35 has carried out air-to-air refueling on several occasions before, but today was the first time through NATO’s tanker aircraft cooperation, and thus an important milestone.
Air refueling is crucial to support Norwegian F-35 missions over long distances. This strategic cooperation is important for NATO and Norway, and allows us to refuel during flight, which increases the length of the mission, says Major General Rolf Folland, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. As early as January 2022, the F-35s will take over the QRA mission from Evenes. This milestone is another important step towards full operational capability (FOC) in 2025 with the Norwegian F-35s.
The Norwegian Armed Forces purchase or rent tank flight hours from allies to keep Norwegian fighter pilots operational on air-to-air refueling. Aircraft with tank and transport capacity are a highly demanded capacity in NATO. In order to meet the operational challenges in the future and ensure efficient utilization of our combat air force, it is necessary to have air refueling capacity. Airbus A330 MRTT tankers can be used on all types of aircraft that are part of the multinational fleet (Multinational MRTT Fleet, MMR), and most other types of aircraft used within NATO.
The tankers that are part of the collaboration are located in Eindhoven, Netherland (main base), and in Cologne, Germany (forward operating base), where personnel from the Norwegian Air Force and other nations work. The first aircraft was delivered on 30 June 2020. The delivery of a total of eight MRTT aircraft will be completed in 2024. The aircraft are not only used for refueling, but also for strategic transport and medical evacuation. They can, for example, carry up to 267 people and 45 tons of cargo at the same time, and they can be configured for medical evacuation with 16 stretchers, 21 medical seats and a staff of six people.