The European Defence Agency (EDA) is conducting the first collective European air-to-air refuelling (AAR) clearance trial on the Italian Air Force’s KC767 tanker aircraft along with the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) at Decimomannu airbase in Italy.
Scheduled for completion on 12 September, the trial forms part of EDA’s initiative to help address Europe’s shortcomings in air-to-air refuelling capabilities.
Two aircraft from France, including one Mirage 2000 and one Rafale will perform necessary ground and in-flight tests along with three Swedish Gripen fighters to secure technical and operational AAR clearances against the Italian strategic airlift tanker.
Deemed mandatory to provide or receive fuel, the technical and operational clearances are a prerequisite to interoperability during multinational operations.
Representing a first of its kind, the collective AAR certification campaign enables several member states to obtain necessary technical and operational clearances in minimum time for a maximum amount of receivers, facilitating more efficient pooling and sharing of European aerial refuelling capabilities.
European Defence Agency executive director Claude-France Arnould said, ”Italy’s AAR clearance initiative is a cost-efficient way to quickly close an important capability gap regarding tanker-receiver certification; given the urgency based on lessons learned from recent operations, we would have welcomed more nations to participate in the clearance campaign.”
Mandated by member states defence ministers in March 2012, AAR comprises four work strands, including short-term gap filling, optimisation of existing assets and AAR capacity offered by the future A400M fleet and enhancement of Europe’s strategic tanker capability through to the creation of a multinational multi role tanker transport (MRTT) capability.
European armed forces have relied on US assets for air power projection, despite having 42 tanker aircraft of twelve different types, as more than 40% of required clearances are missing.
The AAR campaign facilitates a coordinated approach for full and unrestricted clearances, increasing the flexibility of AAR missions and enabling immediate deployment of assets in future.
Image: The first collective European AAR clearance trial uses the Italian Air Force’s KC767 tanker aircraft. Photo: © 2005-2013 European Defence Agency.