The multinational fleet of Airbus A330 tanker and transport aircraft, which was developed with support from the European Defence Agency (EDA), has been cleared for operations worldwide. First proposed at a NATO summit in 2012, the initiative for a Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) was established by EDA along with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
Now with six participating countries, the fleet performs air-to-air refueling of fighter jets, can carry out medical evacuations and also transport cargo and passengers. MMF reached Initial Operational Capability on March 23 in a ceremony attended by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as the ministers and senior officials of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Czechia and the European Commission.
Preparing for take-off: EDA’s role
EDA’s role in getting the project off the ground was crucial, by bringing together contributing Member States, motivating countries to join and negotiating the aircraft acquisition options.
To initiate MMF, EDA set up a project team to work on the harmonisation of requirements towards a future tanker capability. It helped craft the legal framework to establish the programme and smooth the way for the organisational and industrial partners that were to join.
The Netherlands, where the NATO-owned aircraft are registered, serves as the fleet’s base. Aircraft are also stationed in Cologne, Germany. The Netherlands and Luxembourg launched the programme in July 2016. Germany and Norway joined in 2017. Belgium followed in early 2018 and Czechia joined the MMF programme in October 2019.
Seven aircraft from the fleet are in service. Two more are expected to join in 2024, with the tenth aircraft scheduled for delivery at the end of 2026.
At present, the fleet has already provided six million liters – or about twice the volume of an olympic-size swimming pool - of fuel to NATO allies. MMF aircraft were the first tankers to deploy over Poland in support of NATO air policing following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In total, the fleet has flown more than 500 missions, as well as supported the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan and deployed for exercises with NATO partners such as Australia. Later this year, MMF aircraft will fly to the Middle East to support operations against ISIS.
EDA’s wider role
EDA supports all EU Member States in improving their defence capabilities through European cooperation. Acting as an enabler and facilitator for Ministries of Defence willing to engage in collaborative capability projects, the Agency has become the hub for European defence cooperation with expertise and networks spanning the whole spectrum of defence capabilities.
Member States use EDA as an intergovernmental expert platform where their collaborative projects are supported, facilitated, and implemented. For more details, please see here