Military Aviation

Royal Canadian Air Force buys nine Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft to replace its fleet of CC-150 Polaris and bolster Canada continental defence

RCAF buys nine Airbus A330 MRTT

The Government of Canada has awarded on Jul. 25, 2023 Airbus Defence and Space with a contract for four newly-built Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft (MRTT) and for the conversion of five used A330-200s in a quest to strengthen Canada’s continental defence capabilities. The current contract has an order value of approximately CAD $3 billion or 2.1€ billion (excluding taxes).

Known as the Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC), this new fleet of aircraft will replace the ageing CC-150 Polaris (A310 MRTT), operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The existing A310 fleet is being used to perform air-to-air refuelling operations, military and personnel and cargo airlift, medical evacuations, as well as strategic transport of Government of Canada officials.

“As the world’s most advanced multirole tanker aircraft, the A330 MRTT perfectly matches Canada’s needs to protect its sovereignty as well as to enhance operations both in the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) as well as in NATO,” said Mike Schoellhorn, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space, in a company news release. “Canada achieves this enhancement of operations not only by improving interoperability with other allied A330 MRTT customer nations but also due to the aircraft’s technological primacy ahead of the global competition.”

The newly-built A330-200s will be assembled at the A330 aircraft Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France. Scheduled to enter into conversion at A330 MRTT facilities in Getafe, Spain, in mid-2025, the first MRTT will be delivered to the RCAF in 2027.

Under the agreement, the A330 MRTTs will be equipped with both the hose and drogue and a boom as refuelling options, cybersecurity solutions and countermeasures. All of them could be installed with the also included Airbus Medical Evacuation kit solution, consisting of 2 Intensive Care Units and additional stretchers.

The A330 MRTT

The contract covers a full suite of training services including the most advanced training devices such as the Full Flight Simulator to prepare and maintain crew readiness as part of the modernisation of the Canadian Armed Forces’ air operational training infrastructure.

Following an open procurement process, in April 2021, Airbus was selected as the only qualified supplier for the CC-150 tanker replacement. With 76 orders from 15 customers and able to carry up to 300 troops, the A330 MRTT accumulates 90 percent market share outside the US and more than 270,000 flight hours. As a mature platform, the aircraft has been proven in combat in theatres of operations like the Middle East and the Eastern Flank in Europe, with interoperability, mission success and availability rates as highlights of its performance.

The A330 MRTT it has been ordered by the Royal Air Force, French Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force, among others. Named Voyager in service with the Royal Air Force, the aircraft entered into service in the UK in 2012. The first French Air Force A330 MRTT Phénix (as it is known in the French service) was delivered to the Istres air base in south-eastern France, in 2018.

The A330 MRTT is capable of carrying a payload of up to 45 tonnes/99,000 lb. Its fast fuel flow rate (up to a maximum of 3,600 kg/min – 1,200 US gal/min) makes its Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) the most capable new-generation flight-proven boom available. Under-wing pods provide simultaneous hose and drogue refuelling at high fuel offload rate (1,300 kg/min – 420 US gal/min), allowing receivers to minimise refuelling time and increase operation efficiency.

Photo credit: Airbus

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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