Airbus Defence and Space proudly announced that the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace: AAE) has officially received its 12th and final Airbus Defence and Space A330-200 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. The arrival of this cutting-edge tanker-transport aircraft marks a significant milestone in the modernization efforts of the French Air Force, culminating in the completion of a procurement program initiated in November 2014. The newly delivered Phénix aircraft touched down at Airbase 125, located at Istres-Le Tubé, underscoring France’s commitment to enhancing its aerial capabilities and defense infrastructure. The Phénix, which boasts a wide array of capabilities, has replaced the aging Boeing KC-135R/C-135FR tanker and Airbus A340/A310 passenger transport aircraft in the French Air and Space Force’s service.
One of the standout features of the Phénix is its versatility. It can seamlessly assume the roles of multiple older-generation aircraft, including the C135-FR and KC135-RG for in-flight refueling and the A310 and A340 for the strategic transport of personnel and freight. This consolidation of capabilities streamlines operations, enhances efficiency, and optimizes resource allocation. The journey toward acquiring the Phénix began when Airbus extended its proposal to supply France with 12 to 14 A330 MRTTs back in May 2013. Subsequently, in February 2014, the French Chief of Staff confirmed the acquisition of 12 A330 MRTTs, encompassing an initial standard configuration equipped with a boom and wing refuelling pods, and later versions featuring a cargo door and SATCOM.
The French Ministry of Defence signed a multi-year contract for the A330 MRTTs Phénix in November 2014, valued at €3 billion ($3.3 billion). The first Phénix aircraft were anticipated to be delivered in 2018, with subsequent handovers of one or two aircraft each year until 2025. The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is a remarkable European aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330. Designed for dual-role functionality as an air-to-air refueling and military transport aircraft, it has garnered global interest. To date, 16 countries have placed firm orders for approximately 68 aircraft, with 51 already delivered by November 30, 2020.
One of the standout features of the A330 MRTT is its versatile cabin configuration. It can be adapted to carry up to 380 passengers in a single-class layout, catering to a wide range of missions, from troop transport to VIP and guest missions. Additionally, the A330 MRTT can be configured for Medical Evacuation (Medevac) missions, accommodating up to 130 standard stretchers. The aircraft’s main deck cargo configuration allows for the transportation of standard commercial containers and pallets, military, ISO, and NATO pallets, as well as various military equipment and large items, all facilitated through a dedicated cargo door. With two lower deck cargo compartments and bulk area capability, the A330 MRTT is a highly adaptable platform for diverse operational needs.