Airbus has announced it has completed the development phase of its A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT)-based automated refuelling system during trials with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).
Completed in early 2021, the trials involved 88 fully-automated dry and wet contacts and transfers of nearly 30 tonnes of fuel to RSAF F-15SG and F-16D/D+ fighters. The trials follow an earlier series of tests which comprised seven automated hook-ups between an RAAF KC-30A and Airbus’s A310 MRTT testbed in 2018.
Dubbed SMART MRTT or A3R, the automated aerial refuelling capability is designed to reduce air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety, and to optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) transfer in operational conditions.
“We had the opportunity to test our system with different receiver types ensuring the right fit of our systems, while gathering extensive data key to completing the A3R development,” Airbus SMART MRTT Manager, Luis Miguel Hernández said in a May 20 release. “The team were able to test the limits of the system successfully, verifying its robustness and ability to automatically track receivers with varying configurations.
“We have built an extraordinary relationship based on mutual trust,” Hernández added. “Teams from all sides worked as a single unit during the test campaign and it is always a pleasure to fly with such a professional crew. They are the first partner nation involved in the development of the SMART MRTT, and we are honoured to have them on board.”
Nest step for the automated system is military certification by operators once the results of the trials have been examined. Current MRTT/KC-30A operators include Australia, the UK, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, and NATO, while India has indicated its intention to order the aircraft. The UK does not operate with booms, so won’t use the automated system.