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Progress for European tanker fleet

Photo: The first aircraft for the pooled NATO tanker fleet, A330-243 F-WWKR (c/n 1830), arrives at Getafe on August 2, now painted in NATO colours. The aircraft is still registered as EC-340. Roberto Yáñez


A ceremony was held at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands on July 10 to mark the formal establishment of the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Unit (MMU). The first MMU commander is Colonel Jurgen van der Biezen and Eindhoven will be the future main operating base for the fleet.

The MMU is now responsible for preparations for the arrival of the first MRTT aircraft next May 1. The Multinational MRTT Force (MMF) encompasses eight A330 MRTT aircraft, which will belong to NATO. Five will be stationed at Eindhoven and the other three in Cologne, Germany. The programme is still open to interested partners, with the contract holding the potential for three additional aircraft. The current delivery schedule anticipates the second aircraft arriving at Eindhoven in June 2020, while the third and fourth will go to Cologne in November 2020 and March 2021, followed by the fifth to Eindhoven in September 2021. The sixth will arrive in Cologne in April 2022, with the seventh and eighth both going to Eindhoven in September 2022 and October 2024, respectively.

The MMF programme was initiated with an agreement between Luxembourg and the Netherlands in November 2014, including planned acquisition of the first two aircraft. Germany and Norway joined in June 2017, resulting in five more aircraft being added to procurement plans. Belgium signed up on February 14 last year, boosting the fleet to eight aircraft. The five nations will jointly fund procurement and operation of the aircraft.

The first aircraft, A330-243 F-WWKR (c/n 1830) flew as a ‘green’ airframe from Toulouse, France, on November 15, 2017, it was then ferried to Getafe, Spain, as EC-340 on February 21, 2018 for conversion to MRTT standard. After conversion was completed, it flew to Manchester, marked as MRTT054/M1, on November 29, 2018, where it was expected to be painted in NATO colours before returning to Spain. In fact, it returned to Getafe without the work having been completed. On July 16 it was ferried again to Manchester to receive its definitive paint scheme and then completed its ferry flight back to Getafe on August 2. It will take up Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) serial M-001 when it enters service. The second aircraft, F-WWCC (c/n 1911, to be M-002) flew from Toulouse on January 21. It is also now under conversion in Spain. The third, F-WWCS (c/n 1919, to be M-003) first flew at Toulouse on June 26, following which it was delivered to Getafe for conversion on July 25 using temporary registration EC-331. Dave Allport



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