PARIS — France renewed a pledge to speed up by two years delivery of 12 Airbus A330 multirole transport tanker jets for the French Air Force by 2023.

“At the ministerial investment committee, the Direction Générale de l’Armement received the mission to accelerate the delivery of the A330 MRTT Phénix,” the armed forces ministry said in a Sept. 20 statement.

A 12-strong fleet of the A330 MRTT by 2023 brings forward delivery of the air tankers by two years, the ministry said. A further three units will be ordered to bring the total fleet to 15 in the following years, the ministry added.

No dates were given for a contract for the A330 MRTT or the value of the planned order. No date was set for a further batch of three more units.

That boost for inflight refuelling was among the equipment modernization measures included in the 2019-2025 military budget law, formally signed by French president Emmanuel Macron just before an official garden party on July 13.

The French Air Force has long lobbied for renewing the aerial capability, as the present aging tanker fleet is a key element in the airborne nuclear deterrent. French air operations in allied operations in the sub-Saharan Sahel region and the Middle East rely heavily on U.S. air tankers.

The A330 MRTT will replace a mixed fleet of C-135FR and KC-135R tankers — some of which are close to 60 years old — and A310 and A340 strategic troop and transport aircraft. The A330 MRTT is a military conversion of the Airbus A330 airliner.

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