By David Oliver
The first A330 MRTT customer in the Asia-Pacific region was Australia which has taken delivery of five aircraft and two former Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners are being converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence & Space to be delivered in 2018. Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330 MRTTs, designated KC-30A, have been successfully supporting Operation Orka, the RAAF’s mission against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since 2014.
Under the RAAF’s Project AIR 8000 Phase 2, two more KC-30As will be acquired before the end of the decade although it is not clear if these will be new or secondhand aircraft.
Meanwhile Airbus Defence and Space is confident of more export sales to the Asia-Pacific region following the first flight of the new standard A330 MRTT which features aerodynamic improvements to give a fuel-burn reduction of up to one percent, upgraded avionics computers, and enhanced military systems. The first new standard aircraft will be delivered in 2018 to the Republic of Singapore Air Force followed by the Republic of Korea Air Force.
Another successful Airbus military aircraft in the Asia Pacific region is the multirole C-295 that has been delivered to Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. In July 2017 Thailand was the first stop on a two-week tour of Asia organised by Airbus for its advanced C-295 maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA). The aircraft was a brand new production model recently delivered to the Brazilian Air Force. Following its visit to Thailand, the Asian tour of the C.295 will see it travel to Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and South Korea.
Also being offered to the region are an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and SIGINT versions with a multi-mission radar that can also be weaponised to conduct effective Close-Air-Support operations.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force brought one of its Airbus A400M transports to this year’s Singapore Airshow, which was the first report customer for the aircraft outside of Europe. In May 2017 it was reported that Indonesia planned to buy a small number of A400Ms, but at the Singapore Airshow Airbus was not able to confirm any sales to Indonesia, although it was confident of additional A400M sales in Southeast Asia.