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Singapore Airshow 2020: Singapore's A330 MRTT to receive automatic refuelling capabilities

Airbus is working with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to develop, implement, and certify automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) capabilities on the service’s A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft, the company announced on 12 February at the Singapore Airshow.

An RSAF A330 MRTT in a refuelling operation with the service's F-15SG fighter. (Airbus)

An RSAF A330 MRTT in a refuelling operation with the service's F-15SG fighter. (Airbus)

The programme, known as the SMART MRTT, will also see the delivery of enhanced maintenance solutions for the platform, Airbus said. These enhancements would allow ground crew to detect and troubleshoot anomalies directly from the cockpit.

Singapore signed a contract for six A330 MRTTs in 2014, and the first airframe arrived in-country in August 2018. Singapore is the first customer to receive an improved version of the A330 MRTT, which is also capable of taking on expanded roles including acting as an airborne communications node, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

Under its agreement with Airbus, an RSAF A330 MRTT will take part in the development, flight test campaign, and final certification processes of the A3R programme. The flight test campaign, which has already started, is aiming for certification in 2021.

The A3R system is designed to reduce air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety, and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) transfer, said Airbus, adding that no additional equipment for the receiver would be needed.

The system incorporates automated pilot director lights, which will give visual cues to operators on the receiver’s end once the A3R system is activated.

“During this process, the ARO simply monitors the operation,” said Airbus. However, the ARO is still able to intervene should there be anomalies in the refuelling process, the company explained.

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