PROGRAMME: Belgian, Canadian, French, German and Thai air forces already operate A310s variously fitted for VIP, troop and/or freight transport. Airbus has delegated development and marketing of flight refuelling versions to its major partners, using either pre-owned or new aircraft. Demonstrator MRTT produced by conversion of former airline A310-324 N816PA; undertook compatibility trials with RAF aircraft, July 1995. Marketing efforts originally centred on the A310 version, which offered for the RAF's FSTA future tanker aircraft requirement. This planned to entail start of replacement of VC10s in 2005, although more than one type of tanker is expected to be obtained, probably by lease rather than purchase. Exclusive marketing rights for MRTT assigned to Raytheon (which will also become Design Authority), June 1999. Four Luftwaffe A310-300s will be converted into MRTTs for delivery from 2006; Canada has also announced intent to modify two Polaris MRTs into MRTTs in same programme. NATO reported to be considering utilising converted A310-300 cargo aircraft pending decision on future acquisition and to bridge gap until Airbus A400M becomes available.
A330-200 is being developed as strategic tanker/transport and has been chosen by the Air Tanker consortium as most suitable platform for UK FSTA programme. Consortium members EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales and FRA are advocating a private finance initiative (PFI) solution with service entry in 2008 and programme life of 27 years. Also offered to Australia for AIR 5402 requirement.
CURRENT VERSIONS: Interim MRT (MultiRole Transport) version of A310, without tanker capability, converted by Elbe Flugzeugwerke, Dresden and Lufthansa Technik, Hamburg, for Luftwaffe. Structural strengthening and 3.50 m x 2.50 m (11 ft 5¾ in x 8 ft 2½ in) cargo door added in port forward fuselage. Capacity of up to 214 passengers; or 36 tonnes of cargo/passengers; or 56 stretchers and six intensive care patients in the casevac role. First redelivered from Dresden in June 1999; four of seven Luftwaffe A310s redelivered as MRTs by early 2002. In service, Luftwaffe aircraft proved partially incompatible with military cargo handling equipment and upper deck therefore rarely used for freight; full conversion of two MRTs to MRTT, plus conversion of further pair of standard aircraft directly to MRTT, being undertaken between 2002 and 2005; first tanker kit delivered by EADS CASA in November 2002, with first flight following modification set to take place in fourth quarter of 2003. Remaining Luftwaffe A310s comprise two in VIP configuration and one passenger transport.
DESIGN FEATURES: Conversions offer greater refuelling and transport capability than earlier airliners in combination with modern aircraft with better lifetime costs and longer life expectancy. Possible roles include tanker with underwing HDUs and fuselage-mounted boom and/or hosetransfer systems and carrying in excess of 111,270 kg (245,300 lb) of fuel (139,060 litres; 36,737 US gallons; 30,590 Imp gallons); and cargo and personnel transports which can be combined with refuelling, medevac, airborne command post and reconnaissance/airborne warning.
Airbus conversions offer payloads from 35,000 to 50,000 kg (77,161 to 110,231 lb), full payload transatlantic range, long on-station time, combined boom and hosereel transfer capability (fuel transfer rate at each refuelling point of 1,590 litres (420 US gallons; 350 Imp gallons) per minute, standard Airbus forward port-side freight door (projected height 2.57 m; 8 ft 5¼ in, width 3.58 m; 11 ft 9 in); quick-change main deck layout, probe or receptacle fuel receiver capability; commonality with existing airlines and same worldwide support resources, predictable spares requirements and longer remaining airframe life.
About 100 civil operators on all five continents are flying A300/310, and first-generation Airbus airliners are now available on second-hand market; military rendezvous and self-protection systems can be fitted; main deck can be converted with palletised seating for up to 270 passengers in under 24 hours; up to 28.000 kg (61,729 lb) of additional fuel can be carried in tanks in underfloor cargo compartments.