An Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fitted with the Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) successfully performed the first in-flight refuelling with two F16s from the Portuguese Air Force on 21st October.
This first “wet contact” using the advanced in-house designed boom system demonstrates that the refuelling system is well integrated into the airframe, with all systems functioning satisfactorily. It also validates the fuel transfer capability of the A330 MRTT to receiver planes through this refuelling means, as tested on the ground in early September.
The flight lasted four hours and 30 minutes, during which a total of 13 contacts were performed, with more than 1.5 tonnes of fuel being transferred.
The A330 MRTT used for the exercise is the first for the Royal Australian Air Force, which is due to be handed over to the customer by mid 2010. Flight test of the second A330 MRTT for Australia is progressing well in Brisbane where the aircraft has been modified by Qantas. The third aircraft is already in Brisbane, with conversion work due to start shortly. In total, five have been ordered by the RAAF, with another 23 by three other nations, bringing the total to 28 A330 MRTTs ordered.
The Airbus Military Boom is the most advanced refuelling system available today, and is unique in its kind. Located underneath the rear fuselage of the tanker aircraft, it is remotely controlled from a console in the cockpit, where an operator uses an advanced technology two – three dimensional viewing system. This gives safer operation and a reduced workload for the boom operator, while enabling the tanker crew to be located together. The boom is equipped with a full fly-by-wire flight control system which is unique in its kind, and has demonstrated outstanding handling qualities through the whole envelope
Refuelling can be done at any altitude up to 35,000 ft while cruising at speeds between 180 and 325 kt, in all weather, day or night, thanks, among others, to its stereoscopic vision and lighting systems. The fuel transfer rate of the boom is up to 1,200 US gal/min (4,500 l/min) at 50 psi. This high rate of transfer greatly reduces the refuelling operation time.
The boom is 17metres long when fully extended. It is equipped with an automatic load alleviation system, has auto-disconnect envelope for each receiver, and has been designed under the back-up concept (fail operational, fail safe). Secure communication is possible though the boom. It requires on-condition maintenance only.
On- Ground refuelling tests through the conventional hose and drogue system had already, successfully been conducted in September, transferring more than 200 tonnes of fuel.