Airbus trials automatic air-to-air refuelling
Airbus Defence and Space has performed an automatic air-to-air refuelling trial of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), the company announced on 12 July.
The refuelling was carried out by an Airbus A310 development tanker. The trial, which took place off the southern Spanish coast on 20 June, was conducted in collaboration with the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit.
During the two-hour test period, the A310 tanker performed seven contacts with the KC-30A MRTT.
The refuelling system requires no additional equipment on the receiver and is intended to reduce the refuelling boom operator workload, improve safety and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling in operational conditions.
During initial approach of the receiver, boom control is performed by the tanker’s air refuelling operator. Passive techniques such as image processing are then used to determine the receiver’s refuelling receptacle position and when the automated system is activated, a fully automated flight control system flies and maintains the boom aligned with the receiver’s receptacle. The telescopic beam inside the boom can be controlled in a range of ways including manually by the operator, a relative distance-keeping mode or full auto-mode to perform the contact.
Airbus has begun work towards introducing the system on the current production A330 MRTT.
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