Jon Lake – The Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) officially entered service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) on 30 January 2019.
The first Korean A330 MRTT aircraft was actually delivered to Gimhae Airbase in Busan on 12 November, after which it underwent a series of acceptance tests. The remaining three MRTTs ordered by the ROKAF under its $1.26 billion (KRW1.4 trillion) KC-X programme are due to be delivered before the end of the 2019.
The A330 MRTT was down selected by Seoul government in June 2015, after evaluation of the Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus and the Boeing 767-based Israel Aerospace Industries B767-300 Multi-Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT).
The A330 MRTT will be designated as the KC-330 Cygnus in South Korean service, is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, and equipped with the Airbus Refuelling Boom System.
The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that its selection had hinged on the superior fuel load, endurance, and troop and cargo transport capabilities of the A330 MRTT. The A330 MRTT can carry 111 tonnes of fuel over 14,800km, while the KC-46A carries 96 tonnes over 12,200km and the MMTT carries 91 tonnes. In the transport role, the A330 retains its capacious underfloor cargo hold (accommodating up to 45 tonnes of freight), and offers airliner levels of comfort for up to 292 passengers in its cabin, whereas the accommodation of the virtually windowless freighter-based KC-46 has been cruelly described as ‘rendition class’.
Price was also a factor, while it was noted that the aircraft is already in widespread service. South Korea is the seventh operator of the A330 MRTT, and Airbus Defence and Space has now received orders for about 63 aircraft from 12 nations, and 35 of these have been delivered.
The A330MRTT will allow the RoKAF to project combat power over much longer range, and would allow its F-15K SLAM Eagles to operate as far north as Pyongyang in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The aircraft also promises to allow South Korea to participate in international peacekeeping missions.
by Jon Lake