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The Royal Australian Air Force has now taken delivery of the first of five KC-30As, making the service also the first operator of any Airbus A330-based tanker.The RAAF, which accepted the aircraft from Airbus Military on June 1, will be followed in October by the RAF, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also in the order book for various configurations of A330s tankers.The RAAF's aircraft are General Electric CF6-powered and equipped with a boom and two Cobham 905E underwing pods (common across the A330 tankers), and are capable of being refueled. Four of the aircraft are to be delivered this year and one next year.(Credit: Australian department of defense)One of the year-end deliveries includes the first KC-30A, which suffered an in-flight refueling accident with an F-16 this year during which the boom separated, damaging the tanker and fighter. Airbus Military officials say they have merely tweaked the man-machine interface to assure the operator error is less likely to occur again.However, the incident compounded delays in the first KC-30 handover, although at that time the program was already running more than two years late. Still, for Airbus this is a big milestone and could be important also with competitions in Brazil and India ongoing.One of the big questions now is how the A330 MRTT (Multirole Tanker Transport) will fare in the export market, especially given Boeing, in a few years, will be in the market space with the KC-46A being ordered by the U.S. Air Force? The latter can be offered through foreign military sales channels and is being built in much higher numbers.Airbus Military has a window of opportunity to secure several more A330 MRTT customers as Boeing works on the KC-46A -- and it is all-but assured already the still-pending French order, although timing of that commitment is somewhat in doubt owing to budget pressures in Paris.If you take the U.S. out of the equation, the market for airborne refuelers is not massive. In the end, will Airbus or Boeing have the nose ahead in terms of market share?
ar99, RAAF, Airbus
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