Republic of Singapore Air Force MRTT Fleet to Receive Automatic Air-to-air Refuelling Capability
Republic of Singapore Air Force MRTT Fleet to Receive Automatic Air-to-air Refuelling Capability

Republic of Singapore Air Force MRTT Fleet to Receive Automatic Air-to-air Refuelling Capability

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will soon receive its first Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) with automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) upgrade. The first of six upgraded aircraft will be delivered in the second half of 2022. It was revealed in February 2020 that Singapore would partner with Airbus on the SMART. Shepard Media reported that was announced by Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a media interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day on 1 July. Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) confirmed that the capability will be rolled out to the entire fleet of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) MRTTs. The RSAF currently has six MRTTs.

The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330. A total of 13 countries have placed firm orders for approximately 60 aircraft, of which 51 had been delivered by 30 November 2020. The Airbus A330 MRTT is a military derivative of the A330-200 airliner. It is designed as a dual-role air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft. The A330 MRTT has a maximum fuel capacity of 111,000 kg (245,000 lb) without the use of additional fuel tanks, leaving space for 45,000 kg (99,000 lb) of additional cargo. The A330 MRTT cabin can be modified to carry up to 380 passengers, 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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The first fully automated air-to-air refuelling contacts between an Airbus tanker test aircraft and a Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jet.
The first fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) contacts between an Airbus tanker test aircraft and a Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jet. (Photo by Airbus)

In 2020, Airbus has achieved the first ever fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign, conducted earlier in the year over the Atlantic Ocean, involved an Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with the Airbus A3R solution, with an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver. This milestone is part of the industrialisation phase of A3R systems ahead of its implementation in the A330 MRTT tanker development. The campaign achieved a total of 45 flight test hours and 120 dry contacts with the A3R system, covering the whole aerial refuelling envelope, as the F-16 and MRTT consolidate the maturity and capabilities of the development at this stage. The certification phase will start in 2021.

In February 2012, Singapore expressed interest in the A330 MRTT to replace its four Boeing KC-135s. In February 2014, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) selected the A330 MRTT over the Boeing KC-46, signing for six aircraft. All are fitted with Trent 772B engines and configured for a maximum capacity of 266 passengers or 37,000 kilograms (82,000 lb) of cargo, as well as a maximum fuel weight of 111,000 kilograms (245,000 lb). The first A330 MRTT arrived in Singapore on 14 August 2018 in a special livery. It made its first public appearance at the RSAF’s 50th anniversary parade on 1 September 2018. The RSAF’s six A330 MRTTs attained full operational capability (FOC) on 20 April 2021 and currently fly with the 112 Squadron at Changi Air Base (East) in Singapore.

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