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. EDA has just recently added a forth workstrand which is dedicated to the development of Automated AAR (A3R).
- Common regulatory framework
- Common certification processes
- Common approach to organisational approvals
- Common certification/design codes
- Common approach to preservation of airworthiness
- Arrangements for recognition
EDA is working on three work strands to counter Air-to-Air Refueling shortfalls in Europe:
Optimization of existing capabilities
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 workstrand 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 workstrand EDA leads the project to find subjects which are potential synergies. The focus is on certification, Training, sustainment and common development of capability.
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 is investigating the feasibility. EDA has proposed a Food for Thought paper which has been shared with pMS.
Increasing the strategic tanker capability in Europe by 2020 (MMF)
In July 2016, The Netherlands and Luxembourg signed a Memorandum of Understanding to proceed with the acquisition of a pooled fleet of Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT) aircraft. On 25 September 2017, the contract was amended to include two additional nations as participants in the MMF project: Germany and Norway. This amendment of the contract increases the scope of the project from the two A330 MRTT aircraft (initially ordered by The Netherlands and Luxembourg) to seven aircraft in total. In January 2018, Belgium formally joined the project. With Belgium's participation, the fleet grew further to eight aircraft. In 2019, the Czech Republic joined the programm as well. In order to facilitate the joining of new interested nations in the future, there are still three options for additional aircraft in place (potential increase to 11 aircraft in total).
The delivery of the eight A330 MRTT aircraft is expected between 2020 and 2022.