December 03, 2013
Credit: Airbus Military
The Spanish air force is looking to purchase a trio of Airbus Military A330-200 multi-role tanker-transports (MRTTs) to replace its aging Boeing KC-707 tankers.
The purchase of new tankers is now one of the air arm’s top priorities, according to Brig. Gen. Miguel Angel Martin Perez, head of the plans and policy division at the Spanish air force. He spoke at the Military Airlift – Rapid Reaction and Tanker Operations conference in Seville on Dec. 3.
But the country’s financial troubles are having major effects on equipment programs for the entire Spanish armed forces, and there is no funding for the project.
Spain is hopeful the current air force budget will begin to increase in 2016 from an expected record low in 2014. Spanish officials hope their buy will come off the back of an expected European Defense Agency (EDA) purchase of tankers expected during the second half of this decade. EDA hopes to have an agreement signed in late 2014 allowing for the possible procurement of tankers in conjunction with Occar, the European armament cooperation agency, for initial operations in 2020 and a full operational capability in 2021.
But Spain wants its own sovereign aircraft that it can configure to transport Spanish royal family members, who currently use a pair of Airbus A310s in a VIP configuration.
Air force officials had hoped the A330s could be purchased by adjusting the air arm’s order for the Airbus A400M airlifter, but Airbus Military would not allow such a change. Spain has 27 of the new transport aircraft on order, but the financial constraints mean it is currently budgeting to operate only 14, and may store the other 13. It has previously said it may try to sell the aircraft.
Spain’s first A400M is due to roll off the Seville line in 2014 and enter service in late 2015. The air force will then receive four or five aircraft per year until 2022.
Spain will use the A400M to replace its C-130 and KC-130 Hercules transports and tankers. Spain had planned to retire its C-130s in 2016. But delays with the A400M have pushed that aircraft’s introduction back, forcing the air force to embark on a C-130 life-extension program.