Airbus Defence and Space has inked two contracts worth €1.2bn ($1.3bn) with France’s Direction générale de l’armement and Direction de la Maintenance Aéronautique for the enhancement and in-service support of the French A330 MRTT fleet. 

These agreements attempt to bring enhanced connectivity, self-protection, and participation in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) for the A330 MRTT, which promises improved capabilities for France’s aerial needs.

Strategic A330 MRTT contracts

These agreements represent a stride in the evolution of the French multi role tanker transport fleet. According to GlobalData’s “The Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft Market 2023-2033” report, the growth of the Tanker Aircraft segment in the European region is sustained by France’s ongoing procurement of A330 MRTT valued at $4.0bn.

Dubbed the “Standard 2” contract, the first agreement takes a step toward the future of air combat by extending the A330 MRTT’s capabilities. This enhancement will focus on critical aspects, notably connectivity and self-protection. 

With a vision of staying connected in any circumstances, even in jammed environments and extreme weather conditions, the aircraft will be equipped with the MELISSA satcom station. The result will be a French A330 MRTT capable of serving as a high-bandwidth communication relay node with advanced command and control capabilities. 

This upgrade sets the stage for the A330 MRTT’s integration into the future air combat cloud within the FCAS. The transformation will begin with A330 MRTT No. 15, scheduled for qualification in 2028, with the remaining 14 French A330 MRTTs set to undergo this upgrade at the Istres Air Base in France.

The second contract covers the in-service support of the ‘Phénix’ fleet for a decade, with an option for two more years. This support, to be executed at the Istres Air Base in southern France, home to the 31st Strategic Air Refuelling and Transport Wing, will ensure that the A330 MRTT fleet remains in peak operational condition. 

As the prime contractor, Airbus will lead fleet modernisation, maintenance, logistics, and technical support. This initiative will involve doubling the local Airbus team in France to provide the necessary support. 

Global impact

These support services aim to guarantee operational availability, reactivity, and resilience, in line with the needs of the French Air Force and the Strategic Air Forces, even for aircraft deployed outside France.

The ‘Phénix’ fleet comprises 12 A330 MRTTs and has accumulated more than 18,000 flight hours. Notably, France is the largest A330 MRTT customer, with 15 A330 MRTTs ordered.

France is procuring a total of 15 A330 MRTT aircraft. These were ordered in two groups, of 12 and three, the first group of which will be delivered by the end of 2023, according to GlobalData’s “France Defense Market 2023-2028” report. 

Airbus has had a series of A330 MRTT developments across different nations in the last three years. This includes delivering the second A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport to NATO, expanding the Multinational MRTT Fleet through an order by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation , and facilitating the Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 MRTT fleet upgrade.

Additionally, the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s A330 MRTT has achieved full operational capability, while the United Arab Emirates is ordering additional A330 MRTTs. The Spanish Ministry of Defence is set to procure three A330 MRTT aircraft. These developments contribute to air-to-air refuelling, strategic transport, and medical evacuation capabilities across different regions.