The type, known as Voyager in UK service, will enhance NATO strategic transport and air-to-air refuelling capabilities.

The full fleet will consist of eight Multi-role tanker transport aircraft, with an option to extend the contract up to 11 aircraft in the future. The aircraft will be owned by NATO and managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency with the support of the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation.

The Alliance said in a news release:

“NATO’s future fleet of multi-role aircraft (MMF) is marking an important milestone on Tuesday (30 June 2020), as the first of the eight aircraft in the fleet landed at the main operating base in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The aircraft, an Airbus A-330, arrived from the production facility in Getafe (Spain).”

The Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet will provide strategic transport of people and cargo, will enhance substantially European air-to-air refuelling capabilities, and will be available for medical evacuation, if needed.

Six NATO Allies have pooled resources to make this initiative possible – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway. This effort has been supported by NATO and the European Union, and is an example of effective cooperation between the two organisations when delivering critical capabilities for their members, say NATO.

“The MRTT fleet’s versatility in providing several critical capabilities simultaneously is nothing short of impressive. The aircraft can help respond to crises such as the COVID-19 emergency, by moving medical supplies and conducting medical evacuations. However, the fleet will probably have the most profound impact within the air-to-air refueling mission, an area where historically many European Allies have lacked capacity. Therefore, the MRTT fleet will help contribute to a fairer transatlantic burden-sharing at NATO. It is also a successful pilot multilateral cooperation project, bringing together a number of Allies and multiple NATO and EU institutions and agencies in support of the delivery of a major capability,” said Camille Grand, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment.

“This is a prime example of European defence cooperation done in close coordination with NATO, which shows that once a capability shortfall has been jointly identified, European nations can pull together, work on a common project aimed at filling the gap, and eventually deliver – as they do with today’s delivery of the first aircraft. It’s Pooling & Sharing at its best,” said Jiří Šedivý, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency.

The second aircraft is scheduled for delivery by the end of July 2020, and the rest of the fleet will follow until the end of 2024.

The aircraft will be operated by a multinational unit, comprising of military personnel of the participating countries. The unit is based in a Main Operating Base in Eindhoven, which will host five aircraft, and a Forward Operating Base in Cologne-Wahn (Germany), where the rest of the fleet will be stationed.

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Cam

Germany can easily afford their own fleet. But was it a clever Move them pooling together?, Germany will have more fighter aircraft than the UK in coming years and almost double the number of a400s, i wonder if the Luftwaffe will keep their 4 A310 MRTTs fleet. And I suppose the a400 can be a refuelling tanker also if they need it to be.

Ron

What does the UK get out of this contract, the A330-MRTT was a concept paid for by the UK, it was not Airbus building one and then the RAF said Oh good we need that, it was a UK requirement and the development problems etc was for the UK to iron out. So what part of the % of the project do we get in return? Yes the Airbus A 400 can be used as a tanker, tested and done that with two wing drouges, down to speeds of 105 knots for whirlybirds and anything upto Typhoon, Rafale, or even… Read more »

Lordtemplar

What are you inventing? A330MRTT is a 100% Airbus design based on the A330 civilian aircraft and the the previous A310MRTT. The UK did not develop this project since it is not a part of Airbus which is co-owned by France, Germany and Spain. PS Australia was the first client to receive the aircraft, export clients were first in line to get the orders fulfilled. Furthermore France and Germany had made commitments to purchase them before this concept was ever greenlighted. FYI the UK version is not even the complete version since it has no boom capability.

Cam

Actually BAE did own part of air bus before they sold it. It’s not so much countrys owning these days but multinational company’s.

Andrew

‘Therefore, the MRTT fleet will help contribute to a fairer transatlantic burden-sharing at NATO‘

Sorry, but you’ve got to laugh….. USA approx 450 Tankers. UK 14 tankers….. NATO 8 tankers…. doesn’t really do much for sharing the burden…. just another clever move by the Germans so they don’t need to invest in their defence….

If the UK and France can sustain a very modest tanker fleet, then the very least you’d expect for a country of Germany’s Size and GDP would be something similar, not the 4 tankers they currently have.

Sean Crowley

8 Tankers for all of NATO ! Australia has seven alone .

DJ

It’s just 6 NATO members clubbing together to buy, crew & operate 8 tankers as a group, rather than individual nations. You need to stick something on the side & someway of coordination of command & operation.

DJ

Sorry admins – accidentally hit the flag icon. Please ignore.

Daniele Mandelli

With Germany’s lack of will to get involved in expeditionary operations, understandable given their history, do they actually need that many anyway?
The UK ADR is sizeable, and we also deploy our assets far and wide. Thus a AAR capability is more important for us. Same for Australia given their huge landmass and ocean area and the distances their aircraft might have to cover to defend it.