Military Logistics

Singapore Airshow 2020: Singapore aims at smarter MRTT refuelling

12th February 2020 - 09:00 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Singapore

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On the second day of Singapore Airshow 2020, Airbus and the Singapore government announced an agreement to collaborate on the development of an A330 Smart Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).

Among the characteristics of a Smart MRTT is automated air-to-air refuelling, plus ‘enhanced maintenance solutions’ to increase availability and mission success rate. Under the latter, ground crews will be able to troubleshoot problems directly from the cockpit.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force ordered six MRTTs from Airbus Defence & Space in 2014, and one aircraft appeared at Singapore Airshow 2020’s static display for the first time.

One Singaporean MRTT will be allocated to an ‘ongoing development, flight test campaign and final certification programme’. This flight series has already commenced, and it is expected to finish in 2021.

Automated refuelling does not see any additional equipment installed on the receiver, but it will reduce the workload of the air refuelling operator, plus improve safety and the rate of fuel transfers during operations.

Airbus explained that once the automated system is activated, the boom flight control system automatically progresses to transfer fuel upon contact with the receiver, with the operator simply monitoring things.

If an anomaly occurs, such as deviations in the receiver stability or a malfunction, the system automatically disconnects. Meanwhile, pilots on receiving aircraft are directed by visual cues via automated pilot director lights.

Commenting on the announcement, Alberto Gutiérrez, head of military aircraft at Airbus, said: ‘With this agreement, the Singapore air force leads the evolution of the A330 MRTT, helping us to bring new hands-off capabilities to the benchmark of next-gen tanker operations.’

Airbus noted that this development ‘paves the way towards a fully autonomous aerial refuelling operation’.

The first automated contact with a boom system was achieved by an RAAF MRTT in July 2018. During this testing, an Airbus-owned A310 performed seven automated contacts with an Australian KC-30A.

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