French Air and Space Force (Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace) received its first Airbus A330-200 in the colors of the French Republic at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle on Nov. 26.
This is the first of the three A330s acquired by the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement, “General Directorate of Armaments”) under the French government’s aeronautical support plan to amid the COVID-19 crisis. The second aircraft is expected to be delivered at the end of 2020 and the third one in 2022.
These two planes will be deployed from their main operating base at Roissy. They will take over strategic transport missions from the two Airbus A340s of the 3/60 “Estérel” transport squadron (Escadron de Transport 3/60 Estérel) based at Creil Air Base, Oise. The A340s will be withdrawn from service at the end of December 2020.
French military aeronautical research and test centre CEAM, (Centre d’expertise aérienne militaire, “Center of Military Air Expertise”) will now carry out a short but dense experimentation of the aircraft aimed at validating their proper functioning, their interfacing with their operational environment (mission preparation, ground handling) and technical (maintenance contract), with the aim of guaranteeing optimum operation as quickly as possible by the ET 3/60.
The acquisition of three of these aircraft, under the aeronautical support plan presented by the government on June 9, 2020, will make it possible to withdraw the aging A340 and A310 fleets from service. This acquisition was made at the end of August 2020 on the basis of two used aircraft with very good technical potential and one new aircraft.
These three new planes will be eventually converted to MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) variant to complete the renewal of the French Air and Space Force’s tanker fleet. They will then join 12 MRTTs expected by 2023, bringing the Air Force’s MRTT fleet to 15 aircraft, in accordance with the final objective enshrined in the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law (LPM).
The A330 MRTT, called “Phénix” in French service, aims to replace the service’s several ageing fleets of in-flight refueling and strategic transport aircraft.