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Airbus completes A3R automatic aerial refuelling trials

A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG Eagle combat aircraft connects to an MRTT tanker during A3R testing in August. (Airbus)

Airbus Defence and Space (DS) has completed trials of the automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) system for its A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

Announced on 11 October, the completion of testing was carried out in conjunction with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), which utilised one of its own MRTTs along with its full fleet of receiver aircraft types in a series of ‘wet' and ‘dry' (with and without fuel being passed, respectively) contacts over the course of three weeks in August.

As noted in the announcement, the tests were conducted in all-weather conditions, and in day and night hours.

News of the competition of testing came about 15 months after the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial: INTA) granted certification for the A3R capability for daylight operations.

As earlier noted by Airbus, the A3R system requires no additional equipment on the receiver aircraft and is intended to reduce the air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety, and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) transfer in operational conditions. The objective for the A3R system was to develop technologies that will reach fully autonomous capabilities.

To date, the A330 MRTT has been sold to 14 countries: Australia, France, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) members Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway. It has also been selected by Canada, India, and Indonesia.

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