MELBOURNE, Australia ― The first Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport for the Republic of Korea Air Force has landed in South Korea for its acceptance tests.
According to a news release from the manufacturer, the aircraft, which was piloted by a joint Airbus and Air Force crew, arrived at Gimhae Air Base in Busan after a ferry flight from the Airbus Final Assembly Line in Getafe, Spain, with a stop in Vancouver, Canada.
It will now undergo ground and flight tests in Gimhae. The Air Force will be supported by a team from Airbus, which will be based in South Korea for the duration of the tests and until the aircraft is officially handed over to the customer.
Airbus did not specify how long the acceptance tests will last, and referred questions about the specifics of the test program to the Air Force.
This aircraft is the first of four ordered by South Korea. Its arrival marks the second regional customer of the A330 MRTT to receive its first aircraft this year, with the first of Singapore’s six aircraft having been delivered in August.
Another customer, France, had also taken delivery of its first MRTT in October.
The A330 MRTT marks the introduction of a dedicated tanker capability for South Korea’s Air Force, and it will allow the service’s fighters to increase their persistence during missions.
The service is currently operating the Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle and the Lockheed Martin KF-16C/D Fighting Falcon as its primary combat aircraft. South Korea has also ordered the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, with the first one for the Air Force rolling out earlier this year.
South Korea selected the A330 MRTT for its $1.26 billion KC-X program in 2015 after evaluating competing proposals from Boeing, with the KC-46 Pegasus, and Israel Aerospace Industries, who proposed converting 767 airliners in a tanker aircraft.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.