Airbus and Singapore collaborate on A330 SMART MRTT development

The photo shows a RSAF A330 MRTT in a refuelling operation with a RSAF F-15SG fighter.
The pho­to shows a RSAF A330 MRTT in a refu­elling oper­a­tion with a RSAF F‑15SG fight­er. Source: AirbusDefence

Sin­ga­pore, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2020 – Air­bus and Sin­ga­pore have agreed to col­lab­o­rate on the devel­op­ment of the A330 SMART Mul­ti Role Tanker Trans­port (MRTT) for the Repub­lic of Sin­ga­pore Air Force (RSAF). The SMART MRTT pro­gramme will devel­op, cer­ti­fy and imple­ment Auto­mat­ic Air-to-Air refu­elling (A3R) capa­bil­i­ty as well as enhanced main­te­nance solu­tions for the A330 MRTT.

With this col­lab­o­ra­tion Sin­ga­pore becomes a key part­ner for the new auto­mat­ed aer­i­al refu­el­ing capa­bil­i­ties. Under the agree­ment, a RSAF A330 MRTT will take part in the ongo­ing devel­op­ment, flight test cam­paign and final cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme. The flight test cam­paign, which has already start­ed, is aim­ing for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in 2021.

While devel­op­ment of SMART MRTT capa­bil­i­ties fur­ther strength­ens Air­bus’ lead­ing posi­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal edge in the tanker mar­ket, the enhanced main­te­nance solu­tion is designed to improve A330 MRTT’s avail­abil­i­ty and over­all mis­sion suc­cess rate.

Air­bus Head of Mil­i­tary Air­craft, Alber­to Gutiér­rez 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”.

Towards a full autonomous operation

The A3R sys­tem requires no addi­tion­al equip­ment on the receiv­er and is intend­ed to reduce air refu­elling oper­a­tor (ARO) work­load, improve safe­ty and opti­mise the rate of air-to-air refu­elling (AAR) trans­fer in oper­a­tional con­di­tions to max­imise aer­i­al superiority.

Once the A3R sys­tem is acti­vat­ed by the ARO, the Boom Flight Con­trol Sys­tem becomes ful­ly auto­mat­ed and pro­gress­es to trans­fer fuel upon con­tact with the receiv­er. Dur­ing this process, the ARO sim­ply mon­i­tors the oper­a­tion. In the event of an anom­aly due to receiv­er sta­bil­i­ty devi­a­tions or mal­func­tions on the tanker, the A3R sys­tem is able to dis­con­nect and/or clear the Boom away from the receiv­er safely.

On the receiv­er end, pilots clos­ing in to the tanker take visu­al cues from the auto­mat­ed Pilot Direc­tor Lights (PDL). This fea­ture allows for more effi­cient oper­a­tions, with smoother tran­si­tions and min­imis­es time dur­ing the cou­pled state.

The A3R devel­op­ment paves the way towards a ful­ly autonomous aer­i­al refu­elling operation.

Two years since the world’s first auto­mat­ed contact

In July 2018 Air­bus demon­strat­ed that A3R was fea­si­ble as a prod­uct after the achieve­ment of the world’s first auto­mat­ed con­tact with a Boom sys­tem. In a joint oper­a­tion with the Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force (RAAF), the company’s A310 devel­op­ment tanker per­formed sev­en auto­mat­ed con­tacts with a RAAF KC-30A MRTT, also made by Airbus.

Enhanced main­te­nance

Enhanced main­te­nance equip­ment will allow ground crews to detect and trou­bleshoot direct­ly from the aircraft’s cock­pit the root cause of a fail­ure. This new upgrade enables faster res­o­lu­tion of ground tasks while pro­vid­ing the means for max­imis­ing the effi­cient use of spare parts.


@AirbusDefence #A330MRTT #A3R #SGAirshow2020

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