Singapore deploys RSAF A330 MRTT to support Afghanistan evacuation efforts


The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has dispatched one of its Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) to assist ongoing international efforts to airlift evacuees from Afghanistan.

The MRTT, with aircraft bort number 762, departed from Changi Air Base (East) at around 2230 hours local time with a total of 77 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel comprising the aircraft’s crew, engineers, and Singapore Army security forces.

According to the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), the MRTT will be transporting evacuees from Qatar to Germany or other countries.

The RSAF’s fleet of six MRTTs only recently achieved full operational capability in April. These aircraft have been equipped with a customised avionics suites that enables them to be operated by just three aircrew – the pilot, co-pilot, and an air-refuelling operator (ARO) – as opposed to the typical four-person complement originally specified by the manufacturer.

Besides carrying up to 245,000 lb of fuel, the MRTT can also be configured to transport additional cargo and personnel, or as an aeromedical evacuation aircraft. It can further extend its range by receiving fuel from another tanker aircraft using its Universal Aerial Refuelling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI).

“We would have wished a different outcome for all of Afghanistan, but take some comfort that our SAF is contributing directly to this humanitarian effort, knowing that that every family or individual they evacuate means changed lives and a more promising future,” said defence minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

Dr Ng also noted that there are already around 200 evacuees awaiting the SAF crew at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. From Germany, the aircraft will return to Qatar and undertake as many evacuee transfer missions between the two countries as the situation allows.

The SAF is no stranger to international operations in Afghanistan, having previously deployed troops there for multinational stabilisation and reconstruction efforts between May 2007 to June 2013. Dr Ng noted that the SAF has also continued to have a presence in Afghanistan in a variety of roles from 2014.

Besides Singapore, Japan has also deployed Self-Defense Forces (SDF) aircraft comprising a Kawasaki C-2 and two Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical airlifters to evacuate Japanese citizens and local staff working for the Japanese embassy and other organisations in Afghanistan.

These aircraft are operating out of Pakistan and are expected to evacuate about 500 people. However, reports indicated that SDF sorties to Kabul on Thursday were unable to assist these evacuees as they were unable to reach the airport.

by Jr Ng