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Luxembourg and The Netherlands A330MRTT purchase
Latest update: August 3rd, 2016
On Thursday July 28th the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) and Airbus Defence and Space signed a contract two purchase two A330MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft. The aircraft will be utilized in the Air Transport (AT), Air-to-Air refuelling (AAR) and Medical evacuation (Medevac) roles. Both A330MRTTS are bought on behalf of Luxembourg and The Netherlands and will be registered in The Netherlands.

Eindhoven Air Base will be home for the new aircraft were they will enter a pool from 2020. In the same year the two  Royal Netherlands Air Force McDonnel Douglas KDC-10s currently operated by 334 squadron will be withdrawn from service.

The acquisition of the two Airbus D&S MRTTs originated back to operation Unified Protector (OUP) in Libya 2011. During the campaign the United States and several European nations operated over the Mediterranean and Libya maintaining a no-fly zone and enforcing an arms embargo. During OUP it became very clear the European nations were lacking an Air-to-Air refueling capability and thus being dependent on the USAF McDonnel Douglas KC-10A Extender and Boeing KC-135R/T Stratotanker fleets to refuel the fighter aircraft. Within the European Defence Agency the MRTT project started with The Netherlands taking the lead in the program. Both Airbus D&S with its A330MRTT and Boeing with its KC-46A Pegasus aircraft were invited to submit their bids in 2014.

In 2015 during European Air Refueling Training (EART) exercise it became clear that Airbus D&S would receive a request for proposal. At that time it was planned to purchase three tankers with an option for one to be operated by The Netherlands, Norway and Poland. Eindhoven AB would be the main operating base with both Norway and Poland providing a forward operating base. The 2016 edition of the EART revealed that Luxembourg joined the other countries and both Belgium and Germany expressing their interest in the MRTT program. Three aircraft would be bought with the contract to be signed during the Farnborough International Air Show held July 11-15.

The press release on July 28
th by The Netherlands MoD stated the purchase of only two aircraft and by Luxembourg and The Netherlands only. However both the contract with Airbus D&S and the Memorandum of Understanding between Luxembourg and The Netherlands offer the participation of the nations and a follow on order for one to six aircraft.

Part of the MoD press release seems strange. It states that the purchase of the aircraft of the A330MRTT represents a significant contribution to the scarce tanker and transport, in particular the European Union. Basically the purchase is a replacement of both RNLAF KDC-10s which are reaching the end of their service life and needed to be replaced anyway. A significant contribution would have been made when more countries had joined the program and thus more than two A330MRTTs were purchased.

Below table provides an overview of the current European (Union) nations operating ‘MRTT’ aircraft. It provides an overview of the current fleet, future fleet based on contracts and the past fleet.

European MRTT fleet: current, future and past:

Country Current No. Future No. Past No.
France C-135FR 11 A330MRTT 9 C-135FR 11
  KC-135R 3 A330MRTT 3 KC-135R 3
Germany A310MRTT 4 Unknown Unknown B-707  
Italy KC-767A 4 NA NA B-707 4
Netherlands KDC-10 2 A330MRTT 2 KDC-10 2
Spain B-707 1 Unknown Unknown B-707 1
United Kingdom Voyager KC2 7     Tristar 9
  Voyager KC3 6     VC-10 25
Totals   38   14   55
Royal Air Force Voyager KC2 (A330MRTT) visiting Schiphol in 2015.