PAS 2019: NATO keens to expand the customers’ pool of its new MMF fleet

Paolo Valpolini

Officials involved in the multinational multi-role tanker transport fleet (MMF), including eight customized Airbus A330s Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) pooled between five European nations, are keen to introduce more countries to the capability-sharing agreement.

Speaking at the show, Peter Dohmen, General Manager of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), said there has been further interest in MMF fleet beyond existing confirmed participants including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway.

The Airbus A330 MMF procurement programme is managed by the OCCAR procurement agency on behalf of the participating countries, while the NSPA is responsible for life-cycle management of the pooled fleet.

In addition to the eight aircraft already on contract, explained the NSPA representative, the latter includes three more platforms as options to be exercised, in case more countries want to join the initiative. “That’s the beauty of this arrangement”, he explained, highlighting NATO’s “smart defence” concept.

“The MMF is a very strong programme, and it is important to us because it is a collaborative programme”, said Didier Plantecoste, Airbus head of the MRTT and derivates, adding the company is evidently interested in increasing the number of countries participating to the programme. The current worldwide sales stand at 60 aircraft with potential additional customers in the southern hemisphere.

The European producer, OCCAR and NSPA, together with Elbit Systems have been speaking during a press event presenting the first flying trials of the Israeli company’s self-protection suite based on J-MUSIC DIRCM.

With the capability to refuel with both boom and probe and drogue systems managed by a remote air refueling console, as well as carry up to 267 passengers, and cargo in the 120 meters cube lower deck with a 45,000 kg payload, the MMF platform can be configured for medical evacuation with 16 stretchers and 21 medical seats and six personnel.

Started in 2011 and developed with a cooperation agreement between NSPA and OCCAR in October 2014, the MMF programme saw the incremental expansion to the current five countries and 8 aircraft, the latter being divided between the Netherland Air Force’s Base of Eindhoven (five aircraft) and German Air Force’s Base of Köln (three aircraft). The first platform is expected to be delivered in May 2020, while the second aircraft in June 2020, with expected delivery of the remaining six aircraft by October 2024 with a five months interval between each delivery.

MMF initial operational capability (IOC) is planned to be attained in Q3 2021 with the second to-be-delivered aircraft (in a permanent medical configuration and stationed in Germany) while full operationally capability will follow in summer 2023. The contract requests each aircraft to provide 1,100 flying hours per year.

Photos courtesy OCCAR