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TurAF to Replace KC-135R Stratotankers with A330 MRTT Aircraft

The veteran KC-135R Stratotanker Tanker Aircraft in the inventory of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) is expected to be replaced with the new generation A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Aircraft from Airbus Defense & Space (ADS) in the coming years. The A330 MRTT was one of two candidates evaluated as part of the TurAF’s need for a New Generation Tanker Aircraft.

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According to the information I have received, concrete progress has been made in the negotiations that started with Airbus Defense & Space in 2020, and it is said that the green light for the project may be given in the summer of 2021 (July/August).

Within the scope of the project, which will be carried out under the coordination of ASFAT (Military Factory and Shipyard Management Inc.) within the Turkish Ministry of National Defense (MoND), a total of 7 A330 MRTT Aircraft are expected to be delivered to the Turkish Air Force, to replace the 7 KC-135R Stratotankers in the inventory on a one-to-one basis. According to my sources, there is a plan to procure the planes in 2+5 as part of Turkey’s higher business package demand. Although the A330 MRTT Aircraft has a higher fuel and personnel/cargo carrying capacity compared to the veteran KC-135R Stratotanker Aircraft (it is estimated that missions performed with 7 KC-135Rs today can be performed with 4 or 5 A330 MRTTs) the A330 MRTT can be sufficient, I assess that the two important factors in determining the number of A330 MRTTs as 7 are the increasing workload of the TurAF due to Turkey’s military presence (base/units) in 15 countries around the world, including Syria, Libya, Qatar, Somalia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Sudan to ensure its own national security and international missions under the NATO or UN umbrella, and the potential for the emergence of different unforeseen missions and configurations for the A330 MRTT Fleet. The A330 MRTT has sufficient spare capacity to take advantage of new digital technologies and can be fitted with a wide range of sensors to enhance its features beyond air-to-air refuelling and strategic air transport.