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France to upgrade MRTT fleet for command-and-control connectivity

France is to upgrade its A330-200 Phénix MRTT fleet into C2 nodes for the Future Combat Air System/Système de Combat Aérien du Futur. (AAE)

France is to upgrade its fleet of Airbus Defence and Space (DS) A330-200 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for greater command-and-control (C2) connectivity, the manufacturer announced on 23 October.

The Standard 2 upgrade will convert the French Air and Space Force's (Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace: AAE's) final fleet of 15 aircraft “into a high bandwidth communication relay node, with command-and-control capabilities, and will build the stepping stone of the A330 MRTT's integration into the future air combat cloud within the Future Combat Air System (FCAS)[/Système de Combat Aérien du Futur (SCAF)]”, Airbus said.

As noted in the announcement, the capability enhancement is also geared at ensuring that the MRTT fleet is connected in all circumstances, including jammed environments and extreme weather conditions.

With the initial 12 aircraft now delivered to the AAE, the final three additional airframes are scheduled to go through military conversion at Airbus DS' Getafe facility near Madrid, Spain.

“The first aircraft to have the Standard 2 will be A330 MRTT number 15. It is expected to be qualified for the French Air Force in 2028. Thereafter, the upgrade to Standard 2 of the remaining 14 French A330 MRTTs will take place at the Istres Air Base in France,” Airbus said.

At the same time as announcing the Standard 2 upgrade, Airbus said it had signed a 10-year (plus an option for two years) in-service support agreement for the fleet. The combined value of both contracts is EUR1.2 billion (USD1.3 billion).

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