Belgium joined a European multinational effort to acquire a fleet of Airbus A330 MRTT (multirole tanker–transport) aircraft, on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018.
At a signing ceremony at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Defence Ministers from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway celebrated Belgium’s official accession to this effort.
The initiative has been supported by NATO and the European Union (EU). It is an example of effective cooperation between the two organizations when delivering critical capabilities for its members.
Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said: “Increasing our ability to keep our planes flying – for longer periods and farther distances – has a direct bearing on our ability to defend our citizens and our territories.”
Known as the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) the programme was initiated by the European Defence Agency (EDA) in 2012. Europe’s organization for the management of cooperative armament programmes – OCCAR – manages the MMF acquisition phase as Contract Executing Agent on behalf of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). Following the acquisition phase, NSPA will be responsible for the complete life-cycle management of the fleet.
The project was launched in July 2016 through an order of two Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft by the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and has expanded steadily. Germany and Norway officially joined the program last year.
The first two aircraft have already been ordered to be delivered from Airbus Defence and Space’s tanker conversion line at Getafe near Madrid in 2020. With Belgium joining, the multinational fleet will now grow to eight aircraft, which are scheduled for delivery between 2020 and 2024.
The aircraft can be configured for air-to-air refuelling (AAR), the transport of passengers and cargo, as well as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. The multinational fleet will be operated from a Main Operating Base in Eindhoven (Netherlands) and a Forward Operating Base in Cologne (Germany).
This multinational fleet arrangement will substantially increase European capacity in air-to-air refueling and reduce the over-reliance on the United States in this area. The NATO statement affirmed that the initiative remains open to other new members.