Saudi Arabia orders 4 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft
July 16, 2024
Aviation Defence & Security Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia orders 4 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft

Delivery is set for 2027

Saudi Arabia has signed an order with Airbus Defence and Space for four additional Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, adding to the six it already deploys and marking a significant advancement in its aerial refuelling and transport capabilities.

The four aircraft, scheduled to commence conversion at the beginning of 2026, are slated to join the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) by 2027. The aircraft will be pivotal in executing vital air-to-air refuelling missions and facilitating efficient troop and cargo transport operations.

The contract includes a comprehensive logistics support package, ensuring the provision of spare parts, training services, and ongoing technical support for the newly acquired fleet, guaranteeing long-term maintenance and operational support for the A330 MRTT aircraft.

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“This new order underscores the Kingdom’s satisfaction with the Airbus A330 MRTT platform,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Air Power at Airbus Defence and Space.

“With this contract, Saudi Arabia solidifies its position as one of the world’s largest operators of the A330 MRTT, affirming the aircraft’s exceptional operational performance and reliability.”

A330 MRTT operators

Apart from NATO, countries that own and operate A330 MRTTs include Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, the UK, and the UAE.

The average cost of an A330 MRTT, depending on the level of customisation, ranges from $300 to $345 million.

Configured with advanced hose and drogue pods, a boom system, and refuelling receptacles, the RSAF’s latest A330 MRTTs will facilitate refuelling operations from boom-equipped tankers, ensuring versatility and efficiency in missions requiring extended air time and operational range.

In a strategic move to enhance local capabilities and support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, Airbus entered into an Industrial Participation (IP) agreement with the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) in January 2024, demonstrating a long-term commitment to the growth of the regional industrial ecosystem.

This agreement underscores Airbus’ commitment to fostering the growth of the regional industrial ecosystem by transferring technology and knowledge related to the RSAF’s A330 MRTT.

Under the agreement, significant emphasis will be placed on localising production and capability development through SAAMS (Saudi Arabian Military Industries and Airbus Military Services), a joint venture established between SAMI (Saudi Arabian Military Industries) and Airbus.

This collaboration aims to cultivate Indigenous expertise in aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO), enhancing Saudi Arabia’s self-reliance in defence and aviation.

Widely regarded as the most advanced next-generation tanker and transport aircraft, the A330 MRTT boasts a 90% market share in 15 countries across Europe, Asia, America, and Oceania. Airbus has secured 82 orders for the A330 MRTT, attesting to its operational capabilities and widespread global adoption.

With the acquisition of four A330 MRTT aircraft, Saudi Arabia reinforces its aerial defence capabilities and positions itself at the forefront of global aviation technology.

Strategic cooperation

As the RSAF prepares to integrate these advanced platforms into its fleet, the partnership between Airbus and Saudi Arabia sets a benchmark for strategic cooperation in advancing aerospace technology and fostering economic diversification through local industrial development initiatives.

Since the 1970s, Airbus Defence and Space has been a steadfast and influential industrial collaborator in the Arabian Gulf region. Over 150 military aircraft have been delivered to regional governments, bolstering capabilities for the UAE Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.

The RSAF’s latest four A330 MRTT aircraft will facilitate refuelling operations. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space

As a member of the Eurofighter consortium, Airbus is at the forefront of manufacturing some of the world’s most advanced combat aircraft on the global market. Orders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar exceed 135 Eurofighter aircraft.

The RSAF’s expanded fleet of A330 MRTTs promises to enhance operational readiness and support the Arabian Gulf nation’s broader defence and economic goals for years.

The RSAF is a technologically advanced branch of the Saudi Armed Forces. Established in 1920, it has evolved into a key component of the country’s defence strategy, equipped with state-of-the-art aircraft and systems.

The RSAF is critical in safeguarding national security, conducting air defence operations, aerial surveillance, and supporting ground forces. It maintains strategic alliances with international partners while investing in Indigenous defence capabilities through initiatives like Vision 2030.

Featured image: With the latest order, the RSAF will operate a fleet of 10 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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