Airbus Defence and Space has received an order from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) for another A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. The latest order, when delivered, will increase the size of the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) to 10 aircraft. The new purchase follows the decision by Belgium to add another 1,100 flight hours of annual usage, requiring a new aircraft to cater for the additional demand. Belgium has invested a further €265 million ($287 million) in the MMF program, which will raise its total hours allocation to 2,100 by 2027.
“Since the arrival of the first aircraft in 2020, and especially since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the MMF is protecting European sovereignty and showing its capabilities as a multirole tanker,” said Jean Brice Dumont, head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. “With this new order, NSPA has already acquired one out of four optional MRTTs requested beyond the nine aircraft contracted earlier, demonstrating the level of customer satisfaction.”
The announcement comes days after the MMF officially declared initial operating capability. A ceremony was held on March 23 at the main operating base at Eindhoven in the Netherlands to mark the milestone, which was attended by a number of dignitaries, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Kajsa Ollongren, the Dutch defense minister.
Despite IOC having only just been declared, the Multinational MRTT Unit (MMU) has already participated in numerous operations, including the evacuation of Kabul in 2021 and refueling operations in support of NATO fighters protecting the alliance’s eastern borders since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022. Over 500 such missions were flown during the year.
Currently the MMU—whose participants are Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway—has seven A330 MRTTs operating from Eindhoven and the forward operating base at Köln-Bonn in Germany. The eighth and ninth aircraft are due for delivery in 2024, with the declaration of full operating capability scheduled for the middle of that year. The newly-ordered tenth aircraft is to be handed over in 2026.