Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS)
The Airbus Defence and Space A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) is offered with a choice of air-to-air refuelling options: an advanced Airbus Defence and Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), a pair of hose and drogue under-wing pods, a hose and drogue Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU) and a Universal Aerial Refuelling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI). The aircraft can be provided with a combination of these options, enabling both probe and receptacle equipped receivers to be refuelled on the same mission.
The Airbus Defence and Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) is certified and has been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force. It is fully interoperable with all refuelling receptacle-equipped fighters, such as the F-35A Lightning II; F-16 and F-15, and large aircraft, such as the E-3 AEW&C and the A330 MRTT itself.
It is the most advanced refuelling system available today, and is unique of its kind. Located underneath the rear fuselage of the tanker aircraft, it is remotely controlled from a console in the cockpit, where an operator RARO (Remote Aerial Refuelling Operator) uses an advanced technology 2D/3D high definition/digital Enhanced Video monitoring System. Adverse weather, day or night refuelling can be performed, thanks to its stereoscopic vision and laser based infrared lighting systems. This gives safer operation and reduced workload for the boom operator, while enabling the tanker crew to be located together.
Refuelling can be performed at any altitude up to 35,000 ft while cruising at speeds between 180 and 325 kt (330-600 km / hr). The ARBS boom is 60 ft /18.2 m long when fully extended, providing a geometrical envelope more than three times larger than that of the KC-135. The most capable new generation boom available today, the ARBS also allows the fastest fuel transfer (up to 1,200 US gal/min / 4,600 l/min) at 50 psig. This high rate of transfer greatly reduces the refuelling operation time.
The ARBS is equipped with an all electrical, full fly-by-wire flight control system. It provides an automatic load alleviation system, has auto-disconnect envelope for each receiver, and has been designed with a dual redundant architecture (fail operational, fail safe). Secure communication is possible though the boom. It requires on-condition maintenance only. Of the four A330 MRTT customers to date, the MRTT fleets of Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be fitted with the ARBS. The UK Royal Air Force elected to use a Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU) for centreline refuelling operations.