Airbus MRTT and B-1B Lancers Conduct Air-to-Air refueling over Southeast Asia

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The Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft has conducted an air-to air refuelling (AAR) exercise with United States Air Force (USAF) Rockwell B-1B Lancer Bombers. Two USAF B-1B Bombers arrived at Paya Lebar Air Base Jan 18 for a stopover, during which they conducted AAR training with the RSAF’s A330 MRTT, a Singapore MINDEF statement said. “Over the years, the RSAF has facilitated aircraft stopovers from various countries. These provide the RSAF valuable training and professional exchange opportunities with different aircraft and aircrew.,” it added.

The Lancers training with RSAF assets are a part of bilateral training with key partners in the region, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) later said. “Integration with the RSAF provides valuable professional exchanges and training opportunities with different aircraft and aircrews,” PACAF said in a statement.

Airbus’ A330 MRTT has been certificated to conduct automatic AAR (A3R) boom operations during daylight, making it the first tanker in the world with the designation. The Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA) certified the A3R system following a collaboration with RSAF, Airbus announced on July 2022. It makes Singapore the first air force in the world to adopt the automated AAR system.

The A3R system is designed to reduce the workload of air refueling operators, while also optimising AAR transfers, without requiring additional equipment on the receiving aircraft. Rather than air refueling operators manually connecting the refuelling boom to the receptacle of the receiving aircraft, cameras mounted on the flying tanker detect incoming aircraft while image processors help identify the aircraft.

Airbus first tested automated contact with a boom system in 2018, during a joint operation with the Royal Australian Air Force. The technology was again successfully tested recently on the with the F-15SG over a duration of three weeks in August 2023, conducting over 500 automated wet and dry contacts with the entire RSAF receiver fleet in both day and night. and in last November’s Exercise Elang Indopura, which involved Singaporean MRTTs successfully refueling Singaporean and Indonesian F-16C/Ds. –adj/dl/gm (Pix: Singapore MINDEF)