The European Defence Agency, Italy and the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) jointly organise the first collective European Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) clearance trial on the Italian KC767. Starting on 5 September, aircraft from France (Mirage 2000, Rafale) and Sweden (Gripen) participate in the campaign to obtain technical and operational AAR clearances against the Italian strategic airlift tanker.
AAR is a critical European capability gap and one of the eleven Pooling & Sharing priorities of the European Defence Agency (EDA). Mandated by Defence Ministers in March 2012, EDA is engaged in four work strands in this domain: short-term gap filling; optimisation of existing assets; optimisation of AAR capacity offered by the future A400M fleet and enhancement of Europe’s strategic tanker capability by creating a multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) capability.
“Italy’s AAR clearance initiative is a cost efficient way to quickly close an important capability gap regarding tanker-receiver certification; given the urgency based on lessons learned from recent operations, we would have welcomed more nations to participate in the clearance campaign”, says Claude-France Arnould, Executive Director of the European Defence Agency.
Aerial Refuelling Clearance
Technical and operational clearances are mandatory to provide or receive fuel and they are thus a prerequisite to interoperability in multinational operations. Taking place in Italy at Decimomannu airbase from 5 to 12 September, France and Sweden will be able to perform the necessary ground and in-flight tests to obtain missing AAR clearances. Today Europe can deploy 42 tanker aircraft of twelve different types for which more than 40% of required clearances are missing. While for critical requirements and war-time operations clearances limited to a specific operation can be issued on a case by case basis, this campaign allows for a coordinated approach for full and unrestricted clearances. This increases the flexibility of AAR operations and facilitates immediate deployment of assets in future.
EDA’s collective AAR certification campaign is first of its kind; it allows several Member States to obtain the necessary technical and operational clearances in the minimum amount of time for a maximum amount of receivers. Up to now, this process had to be organised on a bilateral level. Organising a collective campaign facilitates the procedure for Member States, increases interoperability and saves time, human resources and costs.
AAR is a critical enabler for air power projection and it is required to enable anything beyond short range air combat operations. A unique force multiplier, it is a fundamental capability embedded in modern aircraft design, not just in combat aircraft, but across the full spectrum of air platforms – including in the near future Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.