The AirTanker consortium, which includes Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales UK and VT Group, will supply a fleet of 14 new tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330-200. The aircraft will come into service from 2011, replacing the existing fleet of VC-10s and Tristars.
The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) contract also includes the provision of all necessary infrastructure, including a two-bay hangar, training, maintenance, flight operations, fleet management and ground services to enable worldwide air-to-air refuelling and air transport missions. The infrastructure building programme at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire will commence in May 2008. The programme as a whole is expected to sustain directly up to 3,000 long-term jobs.
The A330 tanker derivative is said to have around twice the refuelling capability of the VC-10 and will be able to offload 60 tonnes of fuel at 1,000 miles from base.
The fuel necessary for refuelling operations, as well as for the A330 FSTA itself, will be carried in the same tanks as fitted to the standard Airbus A330 airliner, leaving the cabin free for transporting up to 290 personnel, and the cargo holds free to carry equipment and supplies up to a maximum total payload of 44 tonnes.
The Military Transport Aircraft Division of EADS will be responsible for designing, developing and converting the tankers, and for delivering them to AirTanker, fully certified and with all the required military modifications.
The project will be supported by the five shareholders with the equipment and services needed in the conversion programme and through-life support supplied by Cobham (refuelling equipment and aircraft conversion), EADS (A330 FSTA support services), Rolls-Royce (engines), Thales UK (avionics, simulators and training services) and VT Group (infrastructure and facilities management).