Air-to-Air Refuelling

Jun 1, 2017

Start Date: 01/10/2012
End Date: n.a.
Participating Countries: All
Other partners: n.a.

Air-to-Air Refueling is an area where Europe faces critical capability shortfalls. This has been exposed in operations in Mali, Libya, and Kosovo, where European forces had to rely heavily on US assets. In order to address this shortfall the European Defence Agency is working on solutions for the short, medium, and long term. Since 2012 EDA has been working on 3 workstrands: Optimization of existing assets, A400M  AAR capability and Strategic Tanker Capability (MMF). This was confirmed at the European Council December 2013, where Heads of State and Government set Air-to-Air Refueling as one of the four key capability areas for EDA to focus on.

Project goals

Overall goal is to increase Europe’s air-to-air refueling capabilities, this is achieved by:
  • Optimization of existing assets
  • Introducing the A400M AAR capability
  • Increasing the Strategic Tanker Capability (MMF)

Detailed description of the project 

EDA is working on three work strands to counter Air-to-Air Refueling shortfalls in Europe:

1. Optimization of existing capabilities

Europe’s military tanker fleet is fragmented. To increase interoperability EDA is supporting entities like EATC in organizing AAR training exercises (EART). Worldwide people now realize that a tanker without clearances is not a tanker. EDA has taken the lead to streamline the different certification processes leading to a clearance. By standardizing these processes the different aviation authorities can easily identify the differences between their own process and their counterpart. This pillar includes all tanker and receiver types (A330MRTT, KC767, A400M, KC46).  By working together closely already fielded capabilities and future capabilities can work more cost efficient and increase their operational output. Within this pillar EDA leads the project to find subjects which are potential synergies. The focus is on certification, Training, sustainment and common development of capability.

2. Introduction of the A400M fleet AAR capability

This work strand focusses on the acquisition of extra Refuelling pods by for example receiver nations thus increasing the amount of tankers without acquiring additional aircraft. EDA is closely monitoring the development of the A400M and when the time is right this pillar can be reinvigorated.

3. Increasing the strategic tanker capability in Europe by 2020 (MMF)

 The Netherlands and Luxembourg last year signied of a Memorandum of Understanding to proceed with the acquisition of a pooled fleet of Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT) aircraft. The signing of the MoU and acquisition contract paved the way for the delivery of two aircraft with options for up to six more when, as expected, other nations join the grouping. The contract also covers two years of initial support.

Recently Belgium, Germany and Norway signed a Declaration of Intend thus confirming their intended participation in the programme, known as the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) initiative.

This increases the overall European tanker capability by fielding a fleet of new tankers (MRTTs) in 2020.

Related publications


Participating Member States

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • France
  • Croatia
  • Italy
  • Cyprus
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Hungary
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • UK