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The European procurement organisation OCCAR has taken delivery of the fourth of a total of nine Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF). OCCAR has ordered the aircraft on behalf of NATO in several tranches since 2016.

Despite poor weather during the takeover process and Covid 19 conditions, the aircraft was accepted according to the agreed schedule and handed over to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) for operation by the MMF.

The first three aircraft were delivered between June and November 2020. The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) operates the aircraft from Eindhoven (NL) and Cologne (DE) for training purposes and for use in operational tasks. Delivery of the fifth aircraft is scheduled for August this year with the last expected at the end of 2024.

The entire fleet will consist of nine multi-role tanker aircraft capable of providing strategic transport, aerial refuelling and medical evacuation capabilities to the six participating nations (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway).

The aircraft are owned by NATO and managed by NSPA with support from OCCAR-EA in the procurement phase and initial in-service support.

MMF A330 MRTT Self-Protection

The aircraft’s self-protection equipment includes defence systems against the threat of infrared-guided missiles. Back in 2017, the OCCAR contracted the Israeli manufacturer Elbit Systems to supply infra-Red-based Passive Airborne Warning Systems (PAWS IR) and Direct Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM). The J-MUSIC system used for this purpose is lightweight, compact and can be easily installed on a variety of aircraft types in various configurations. It is designed in an open architecture that integrates the latest laser technology together with a high frame rate thermal imaging camera and a small, high-speed dynamic turret. This system provides rapid response and enables superior defence against multiple and simultaneous missile threats.

Recently, the delivery order to Elbit has been extended to include the ninth A330 MRTT. The ninth tanker/transport aircraft had been back-ordered in 2020 after Luxembourg widened its participation. OCCAR’s framework agreement includes an option for two more aircraft.

Gerhard Heiming