In January 2008, EADS North America announced that The Royal Saudi Air Force will acquire 3 of EADS A330 Multi-role Tanker/Transports (MRTTs), equipped with both EADS centerline-mounted ARBS (advanced Air Refueling Boom System) for use with its F-15s et. al., and a pair of underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods suitable for use with the Saudis’ forthcoming Eurofighter Typhoons.
In 2009, Saudi Arabia doubled down on its purchase…
Contracts & Key Events
The 6 A330 MRTTs will supplement, and eventually replace, the RSAF’s existing fleet of 8 KE-3As. Like other “C-135” designs, they are related to Boeing’s 707 design that helped usher in the jet age of passenger travel. Their designation stems from the fact that they were derived from the E-3 AWACS aircraft ordered by the RSAF under the 1981 Peace Sentinel program (5 E-3A AWACS, 6 KE-3A tankers). In 1984, the Saudi government exercised an option to increase the KE-3 tanker order to 8, and all deliveries were complete by September 1987.
Within their region, A330 MRTT operators will soon include the Saudis, the UAE (3), and Qatar (2 ordered).
March 3-14/14: Red Flag USA. The RSAF deploys 2 A330 MRTTs and 8 F-15 fighters (presumably F-15S Strike Eagles) to Nellis AFB in Nevada, USA and back for Red Flag 2014, flying 16,000 km/ 9,000 nmi through Moron AFB, Spain and McGuire AFB, USA. It was the A330’s first ever transatlantic deployment of fighters.
The 2 tankers were operated by the RSAF’s first combat-ready tranche of boom-qualified crews, who successfully offloaded about a million pounds of fuel over the trip there and back. Sources: Airbus DS, June 11/14, “Royal Saudi Air Force completes transatlantic F-15 deployment for Red Flag 2014”.
Nov 20/13: All delivered. At the Dubai air show, Airbus says that:
“Airbus Military has delivered all three aircraft ordered by the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence – including the A330 MRTT displayed at Dubai World Central – as well as the initial batch of three for the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has six total tanker/transports on order…. Saudi Arabia’s Royal Saudi Air Force formally has accepted the first three of six A330 MRTTs ordered by this country, and utilised the aircraft to deploy eight Tornado and Typhoon fighters to the UK for Exercise Green Shield.”
Feb 27/13: Acceptance. Saudi Arabia places its 1st A330 MRTT into operational service, via formal acceptance by Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khaled bin Sultan during a dedication ceremony at Riyadh Airbase. Sources: Airbus, “Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT is accepted into the Royal Saudi Air Force fleet”.
July 27/09: EADS announces that the Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation (MODA) has ordered 3 additional A330 MRTTs, bringing its total order to 6 aircraft. Delivery of the first aircraft is due in 2011.
Jan 3/08: EADS North American announces an initial RSAF purchase of 3 aircraft. No price was specified for the new A330 MRTTs, but aerial tankers of this size can approach costs of $200 million per aircraft once all items are factored in. Saudi support arrangements can be even more lucrative, because of the vast amount of responsibility and effort traditionally devolved to contractors.
3 A330 MRTTs