The celebration, Friday, October 19, at Istres of the arrival of the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Transport Tanker) in the army of the air would greet not only the delivery of a new aircraft type. This MRTT, anglicised in Phoenix, which enables the State to reassert its independence to the mission of nuclear deterrence. This tank flying* ensures the possibility to Burst to intervene almost anywhere in the world. Without the tanker, the field of action of bombers, nuclear would not exceed the Europe close. Come to Istres after having assisted last week in the 500th patrol of a nuclear submarine to the Island Long, Florence Parly, minister for the Armed forces, had already hammered home : “It is the sovereignty of France that we are celebrating. It is our independence, it is our autonomy. “

Utility as is also the fighter-bomber Rafale, the Phoenix is primarily in the service of the air forces strategic. As it is expected to fly 1 250 hours per year – a record for a military aircraft, it is going to be able to perform other missions. It will replace, in addition to the tankers, Boeing C-135FR/KC-135RG, the transport aircraft airbus A310-300 and A340-200. The Boeing C-135 are ancestors acquired at the time of general de Gaulle in 1962. These are cousins of the Boeing 707, the airliner which led to the multiplication of the connections long-haul. Its construction was terminated in 1978 and, for nearly thirty years, he disappeared from the fleets of the western companies.

The operator of in-flight refueling is working from the cockpit thanks to the cameras showing the evolution of the aircraft refuelled.

© BAG Lloyd Horgan [RAuxAF] The maintenance operations of these service stations flying cost a fortune to the air force, requesting up to 40 hours of maintenance per flight hour, compared to 20 in the original. And national independence remains the same when hanging on the good will of the us. If, in a period of crisis, the appreciation of it is different across the Atlantic, the valve parts may be close. Sooner or later, the strength of deterrence airborne will then remain on the ground. With the Airbus A330 MRTT, the risk is minimal. Even the engines are from europe, provided by Rolls-Royce. Derivative of the A330-200 civilian built in Toulouse, and then militarized in Spain by Airbus Defence and Space, the Phoenix carries 25 % more fuel than the C-135, 111 tonnes in total. It can deliver 17 tons of fuel in the remaining 4: 30 p.m. to 2 000 kilometres from its base. Most importantly, he knows how to take off at maximum weight on tracks that are fairly long with high temperatures. To be clear, he is not subject to the technical limitations of the aircraft in Africa or the Middle East, where the French forces are very present. On the A330 MRTT, two drivers are necessary and, if appropriate, by an operator of in-flight refueling, which officiates near the cockpit thanks to the cameras, and not to the extreme point aft of the aircraft as the C-135.

Transport aéromédicalisé

Capable of doing several things at once, the Phoenix can carry 272 passengers, 10,000 miles in a single-class with rows of seats spaced by 75 centimeters (better than most airlines). Seven pallets can take place in the cargo hold below. In the course of such a flight carrying mechanics and lots of maintenance, the tanker can refuel aircraft force projection. If the intervention goes wrong, with a notice period of 24 hours, the cabin is transformed into a hospital. The installation kits Morpheus allows you to carry ten intensive care patients and up to 40 minor injuries. Other missions are possible, such as command and control, through the link 16, this intranet military of the tactical situation.

The kit Morphea is used to carry the wounded heavy.

A second Phoenix will join Istres next year. And then between one and three aircraft per year should be delivered by 2023. In total, twelve devices are provided for by the law on military programming, while the other three are additional in the course of negotiations. At the time of the initial order at the end of 2004, the amount announced was three billion euros, 250 million euros per aircraft, including the service center, the system of mission planning, simulator, etc., The same A330-200 civilian appears to be $ 238 million (207 million euros) at catalogue Airbus, but it is only capable of carrying passengers.

As its civilian version, the A330 MRTT is driven to two.

© Julien Fechter

* the history of The tanker aircraft to the air force is told in “the Fuelers”, by Flavien Cuperlier, an album abondemment illustrated with the photographs of Gilles Bordes-Pagès in the editions of the Petit Futé.