Airbus concludes A3R refuelling trials with Singaporean air force

A330 MRTT clears F-15 fighters for automatic refuelling
A330 MRTT clears F-15 fighters for automatic refuelling.

Airbus Defence and Space (DS) has completed the flight-testing phase of its automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) system in partnership with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the company announced on 11 October.

According to the company, flight testing was carried out over three weeks in August and involved several RSAF-operated aircraft including an A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) as well as its Boeing F-15SG and Lockheed Martin F-16 combat aircraft, which carried out over 500 automated wet (with fuel transfer) and dry (without fuel transfer) contacts.

It added in its announcement that the tests were conducted in all-weather conditions, and in day and night times.

“The A330 MRTT has made the future of air-to-air refuelling a reality as a result of the joint efforts of Airbus and the Republic of Singapore Air Force,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus DS.

“This new milestone will enable the RSAF to become the first Air Force in the world to have a boom automatic refuelling capability with all of its receivers, a capability that can be extended to refuelling receivers from other nations,” added Dumont.

The RSAF also demonstrated the A3R system at Exercise Forging Sabre in Idaho in September for the first time in an overseas exercise. According to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), the system reduces operator and pilot workload, enabling each A330 MRTT to deliver fuel to a larger number of receiver aircraft within a single mission.

Airbus earlier noted that the A3R system requires no additional equipment on the receiver aircraft and is designed to reduce workload of the air refuelling operator (ARO), optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling transfer in operational conditions, as well as enhance safety.

The A330 MRTT is a successful platform that is now being operated by 14 countries, namely Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) members Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The type also been chosen by Canada, India, and Indonesia as their next-generation refuelling aircraft.

by Jr Ng