A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft

The Australian Department of Defence has received a proposal from Airbus Military involving a sixth A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The offer, to be finalised by mid-2012, includes an Airbus owned aircraft, MSN 871, which was originally built for the US Air Force’s (USAF) KC-X programme, as reported by Flight Global.

The conversion of a sixth aircraft to MRTT configuration, to be carried out at Qantas Defence Services in Brisbane, will result in an industrial benefit for the RAAF, claims the company.

The company said in a statement: "We think it is a very interesting proposal but we have to see if the necessary budget is there, although we see possibilities."

Around four A330 aircraft, three of which are based at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, have already been converted into the MRTT configuration by Qantas Defence Services, which is currently working on the conversion of the fifth tanker.

The fourth MRTT is currently undergoing boom system modifications at Airbus Military’s facility in Getafe, Spain.

The aircraft has an estimated cost of A$200m ($212m) and could be ready for operational service 12 months after conversion, while the testing of the aircraft’s refuelling boom is expected to begin in 2013.

RAAF is scheduled to receive all five of its tankers with initial operational capability by the end of 2012.

The A330 MRTT aircraft, designated as the KC-30A whilst in RAAF service, is equipped with two underwing refuelling pods, the fly-by-wire Airbus Military Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), and a Universal Aerial Refuelling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI).

The MRTT fleet will be operated by 33 Squadron RAAF for cover hose-and-drogue refuelling and strategic transport of passengers.

Image: Royal Australian Air Force’s fourth KC-30A tanker undergoing modifications at Qantas Defence Services conversion facility in Brisbane. Photo: Peter Ellis.