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Farnborough 2022: Airbus MRTT certified for automatic aerial refuelling

Airbus has achieved the first certification for a fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. (Airbus)

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

Announced at Farnborough Airshow on 19 July, the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial: INTA) certification follows a development campaign conducted in partnership with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

“The certification of the A3R capability is the result of a […] journey that started in 2018 with the world's first automated contact with a boom system in a joint operation with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Since then, we've achieved more aeronautical ‘world firsts' […] especially with the key participation of our partner the RSAF, a launch customer and the first operator to benefit from this game-changing capability,” Jean-Brice Dumont, head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space, was quoted as saying.

The flight trials campaign saw 88 fully automated ‘dry' (no fuel passed) and ‘wet' (fuel passed) contacts, as well as the transfer of nearly 30 tonnes of fuel to A330 MRTT and RSAF Lockheed Martin F-16D/F-16D+ Fighting Falcon receivers. All tests required for A3R Data Gathering with the Boeing F-15SG Eagle, including operational flights to demonstrate the A3R performances in a mission representative scenario, were also completed.

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 is to develop technologies that will reach fully autonomous capabilities, the company said.

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