MELBOURNE, Australia — The first of six Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports has been delivered to Singapore according to the French manufacturer.
In a news release, Airbus Defence and Space confirmed the delivery, adding that the aircraft made its first official public appearance on Sept. 1, 2018, at the 50th anniversary parade of the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The aircraft had flown into Singapore’s Changi East Air Base from Madrid, Spain, on Aug. 14.
The new tanker will replace four Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers the Air Force has been operating since the late 1990s. All four KC-135Rs were former U.S. Air Force "A" models brought out from storage and upgraded before being transferred to Singapore. The oldest of these aircraft is approaching 60 years old.
Airbus says the new-generation A330 MRTT will extend the endurance of the Air Force’s fighter aircraft and ensures the service’s continued capability to provide air-to-air refueling support. The Air Force currently operates 60 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and 40 Boeing F-15SG Eagles.
Some of the service’s F-16 pilots already have experience receiving fuel from the A330 MRTT, having carried out receiver certification flights with Royal Australian Air Force MRTTs as well as receiving fuel from the type during multinational exercises like the recently concluded Exercise Pitch Black in Australia.
Singapore’s MRTTs are powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent 700-series engine, and the aircraft differs from the previous baseline aircraft, as it incorporates changes such as a new standard of flight computers, structural and aerodynamics upgrades, and improved on-board military systems.
Three other Air Force MRTTs are currently in various stages of flight testing or conversion at Airbus, which is also in the process of delivering more MRTTs to Australia, South Korea and France.
The A330 MRTT can carry 111 tons of fuel and 37 tons of cargo in its lower cargo hold in the form of eight military pallets or 27 standard commercial LD3 containers. The Air Force says its MRTT’s interior is configured for 266 passengers, and can be fitted with medical equipment and stretchers for medevac missions.
Airbus added that the MRTT will provide Singapore’s Air Force with greater cargo and passenger transport capabilities, as well as enhance its ability to contribute to international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or HADR. Singapore’s KC-135s have supported coalition air assets fighting the Islamic State group in the Middle East, as well as conducted HADR missions in the region.
The increased passenger capacity of the new aircraft will prove useful in supporting Singaporean military training outside of Singapore. Land-scarce Singapore conducts significant amounts of military training overseas, including in Australia where an expanded agreement between the two countries was recently signed that will see the number of Singaporean troops allowed to train in Australia almost double to up to 14,000 annually.