The MoD has selected AirTanker, following an open competition, to provide the replacement air-to-air refuelling and air transport capability.
The MoD has selected AirTanker, following an open competition, to provide the replacement air-to-air refuelling and air transport capability through the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme. A Private Finance Initiative (PFI) solution is being adopted, in which the private sector will provide not only replacement aircraft, but also a complete and secure long-term service. AirTanker provide a comprehensive service for the RAF to ensure the full operational availability of the fleet over a 27 year period.
AirTanker will provide the Airbus A330 aircraft as 2-point tankers, equipped with 2 FRL Mk32B 900E pods. A number of the aircraft in the fleet will also be capable of being fitted as 3-point tankers. Very few internal changes are required to the A330-200 to modify it for the air-to-air refuelling role. In particular no additional fuel tanks are required. As the A330 shares the same wing as the four-engined A340, there is a pre-strengthened location available for mounting the wing Mk32B pods.
The full passenger and cargo capability can be used while the A330-200 is configured for AAR operations. The cabin remains fully configured and the cargo compartments are unobstructed. On a typical deployment across the Atlantic, a single A330 would be able to refuel 4 Tornados and still carry 11,000lb (5000kg) of freight/passengers.
One novel aspect of the contract is the facility to lease the aircraft for civil operations. The considerable commercial demand for the A330 makes it attractive to third-parties who would operate those aircraft from the fleet that are not immediately required for RAF use. This would deliver a major cost saving to the MoD and taxpayer and ensures that the considerable capability advantages of the A330 are affordable.
The A330 will replace the RAF's existing VC10 and Tristar fleets at RAF Brize Norton.