The A330-200 steps up to its new role as a flying petrol station

The latest derivative of Airbus’ popular A330 is making its world debut at the 2007 Paris Air Show, but this twin-engine widebody is not surrounded by the glamour normally associated with the rollout of a new jetliner.

Painted in the subdued grey colours of the Royal Australian Air Force, the plane marketed by Airbus as the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport or MRTT, is now the first KC-30B aerial tanker version designed for the in-flight refuelling of military aircraft.

The KC-30B is fitted with a large deployable boom installed under the tail, along with two underwing pods – all of which are capable of transferring large volumes of fuel. Such “flying petrol stations” are vital to military operations, allowing fighter jets and other aircraft to be refuelled while in the air, thereby avoiding the need to return to their base of operations for a top-off.

Australia has ordered five KC-30B militarised versions of the A330-200. In addition, three similar tanker aircraft are being acquired by the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom has designed the A330-200 for its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme. The KC-30 also is being proposed to the U.S. Air Force, which plans to modernise its ageing fleet of aerial tankers.