by Devesh Agarwal
The decision follows a lengthy and thorough selection process including the completion of extensive flight demonstrations in India by the A330 MRTT during which the aircraft refuelled multiple types of IAF fighters and operated from the high-altitude IAF base at Leh.
Detailed negotiations will now begin which it is expected will lead to the award of a final production contract for an envisaged six aircraft in 2013.
The A330 MRTT is derived from the highly successful Airbus A330-200 commercial jetliner. It has a basic fuel capacity of 111 tonnes or 245,000 lb. The tanker is available with both the Boom refuelling system and/or under-wing hose and drogue pods.
The A330 MRTT can also be used as a pure transport aircraft able to carry 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes. It can also easily be converted to accommodate up to 130 stretchers for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC). It is unlikely the Indian Air Force will use the A330 MRTT in these roles as it already has an order with Boeing for ten of its C-17 GlobeMaster III strategic transport aircraft, which are in production right now.