Airbus reports the first-ever fully automatic air-to-air refueling (A3R) service with a boom system. Over the Atlantic Ocean, an Airbus tanker aircraft outfitted with the Airbus A3R refueled an F-16 fighter of the Portuguese Air Force.
The test is part of the production plan of A3R systems before its addition to the A330 MRTT tanker. The trials scored a total of 45 flight test hours and 120 dry connections with the A3R system, comprising the entire aerial refueling envelope. The certification stage will start in 2021. A3R system’s goal is to evolve technologies until fully independent operation.
Didier Plantecoste, Airbus Head of Tanker and Derivatives Programmes, declared, “The achievement of this key milestone for the A3R programme highlights the A330 MRTT’s excellent capability roadmap development”. Also, Plantecoste confirmed that Airbus tanker would be the world’s reference for present and future refueling procedures and showed gratitude to the Portuguese Air Force for their cooperation.
According to Airbus, the A3R system needs no further devices on the recipient plane aiming at decrease air refueling operator (ARO) workload, increase protection and optimize the rate of air-to-air refueling in operational circumstances, to maximize aerial supremacy.
The A3R system is reportedly suitable to check in real-time target’s alignment symmetry, following ARO’s start. After concluded the refueling, A3R directs disconnection procedures, including the retracting of the telescopic beam. During the process, the ARO controls the operation.