Airbus In Talks For More MRTT, A400M Buys

Singapore has six Airbus A330 MRTTs in service.
Credit: Chen Chuanren/ShowNews

SINGAPORE—The 2021 airlift campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as a recent major signing of arms sales with Indonesia, has created more demand for Airbus’ A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and A400M airlifter, the company says.

Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Defense and Space CEO, says discussions with interested clients have intensified, and he is certain “one will come to fruition” after the massive aircraft that saw more than 120 A400M and MRTT sorties.

Indonesia placed an order for two A400Ms and options for four more. While the MRTT is not “directly inside” the massive arms deal between France and Indonesia that includes 42 Dassault Rafales, Schoellhorn thinks the need for force projection and interoperability with the Rafale will “certainly increase the likelihood” that Indonesia might go for the MRTT.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, Australia, Singapore and South Korea are operators of the MRTT, and Singapore is working closely with Airbus to develop a semiautonomous refueling capability known as A3R, targeted for certification this year.

Schoellhorn also noted that more customers are looking to use the MRTT as a connectivity node under the greater connected battlespace concept.

He noted that the aircraft has a better payload and range than Lockheed Martin's C-130, thus requiring fewer aircraft and fewer overall personnel to operate. That issue is common in many Asia-Pacific air forces such as Singapore.

The current A400M backlog runs to 2030.

Schoellhorn noted that the future of the “sustainable” MRTT powered by Rolls Royce Trent 7000 engines could depend on whether the A330neo-based LMXT candidate for the U.S. Air Force's KC-Y bridge tanker is selected. However, he expressed pessimism that this would happen, as it was clear that the U.S. military is seeking a proven tanker with a shorter timeline to reduce risks and costs.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.