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A ceremony was held at Eindhoven Air Base on 23 March 2023 to mark the initial operational capability of the European Multi Role Tanker Transport Capability (MRTT-C).

The initiative, agreed at the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012, optimises the use of existing and planned air-to-air refuelling (AAR) assets in developing a European Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF), thus reducing reliance on US AAR capabilities. Its fruition marks a successful combined effort involving the European Defence Agency (EDA), Europe’s Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. The participating nations are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands.

Speaking at the ceremony, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “These aircraft will provide us with world-class air-to-air refuelling, air transport and air medical evacuation capabilities. Tanker aircraft is the backbone of Allied air power.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (third from left), together with Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongron (centre), European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton (fourth from left) and officials from other participating nations, marking the IOC of the European Multi Role Tanker Transport Capability (MRTT-C) at Eindhoven Air Base on 23 March 2023. (Photo: NATO)

“This is an excellent example of how NATO and the EU are working together to deliver critical capabilities for our members,” added Stoltenberg. “This also demonstrates that European allies are stepping up for their defence and strengthening our shared security.”

According to a NATO press release, in 2022 alone the MMF flew more than 500 missions, refuelling hundreds of NATO fighters.

“These aircraft have also supported the evacuation of civilians and refugees from Afghanistan, deployed to the Indo-Pacific for exercises with key NATO partners, including Australia, and later this year, they will deploy to the Middle East to support operations against ISIS,” said the NATO release.

The first MRTT asset, based on an Airbus A330 aircraft, arrived at Eindhoven in June 2020. Currently, seven A330 MRTTs from the fleet are in service, with two more expected to join in 2024 and the 10th aircraft scheduled for delivery at the end of 2026.

Peter Felstead