The French Ministry of the Armed Forces placed a firm order for a new batch of three A330 MRTT “Phénix” aerial refueling tanker aircraft. The acquisition is part of the €15 billion support plan for the country’s aerospace industry announced in June 2020.
The contract, made public on September 7, 2020, was in fact finalized on August 25, 2020. The first aircraft should be delivered by the end of 2020, and the remaining two over the two following years. With three Phénix operating already and nine to be delivered from a previous order, the acquisition will bring the total fleet of the French Air Force to 15 A330 MRTT.
The A330 MRTT is a multirole aircraft, both a tanker and a carrier (freight and passengers) based on the A330. Its versatility will allow the French Air Force to simplify its logistics by harmonizing two fleets into one, namely the in-flight refueling aircraft (Boeing C135-FR and KC135R) and the strategic personnel and cargo transporters (Airbus A310 and A340). As a tanker, the A300 MRTT is also an important component of the French air nuclear deterrence.
Additionally to the three A330 MRTT aircraft, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces intends to place several orders to French manufacturers, for a total of €600 million. They include but are not limited to:
An order for eight Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal will be accelerated to replace the aging Puma fleet of the French military (40 years old on average).
Twelve helicopters, including two EC-145 for €32 million and ten EC-160 for €200 million will be bought for the Gendarmerie Nationale.
An array of maritime patrol drones, including the VSR700 developed by Airbus, Guimbal and Naval Group will be ordered.
One light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft (ALSR) should also be ordered, though the airframe is not manufactured in France as it uses a US-made King Air 350.