Airbus and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) have successfully tested an automatic air-to-air refuelling technology using the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and Singapore’s F-15 fighter jets.
Over the course of three weeks in August, an RSAF A330 MRTT made more than 500 automated wet and dry contacts with the air force’s full fleet of receiver aircraft. This included Singapore’s F-15SG fleet, a customised variant of the US-built F-15E Strike Eagle air-to-ground fighter jet; the service operates 40 active units according to GlobalData intelligence.
The RSAF originally procured the A300 MRTT in September 2018, which the service chose to replace its enduring KC-135R tanker due to the platform’s increased endurance and its capacity to provide more fuel to receiver aircraft.
Testing the automatic refuelling
Spain’s certification authority, INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology), supervised the test flight campaign in Singapore ahead of the certification of the new tech in the first half of 2024.
During the test campaign, further flights were carried out in night conditions, not only with F-15s but also with the RSAF’s A330 MRTT and F-16s; the RSAF operates 20 F-16Cs and 40 F-16Ds. The RSAF used the aircraft receivers for data collection to complete the development and enable night capabilities with the automated system.
In July 2022, the A330 MRTT became the world’s first tanker certified for automatic air-to-air refuelling operations in daylight conditions with F-16s and A330 MRTTs as receivers.
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The automatic refuelling system reduces air-refuelling operator workload, improves safety and optimises the air-to-air refuelling transfer rate in operational conditions to maximise air superiority.
Combat proven since 2014, the Airbus A330 MRTT is certified for aerial refuelling with both boom and hose-and-drogue systems for F-15, F-16, F-35, A330 MRTT, AWACS, Eurofighter and many more aircraft.
“The A330 MRTT has made the future of air-to-air refuelling a reality as a result of the joint efforts of Airbus and the Republic of Singapore Air Force,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.
“This new milestone will enable the RSAF to become the first Air Force in the world to have a boom automatic refuelling capability with all of its receivers, a capability that can be extended to refuelling receivers from other nations”.