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EADS North America celebrates new U.K. tanker first flight

The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), designed and built for the U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF), today completed a successful first flight after being configured for its tanker transport mission.

The aircraft took off from Airbus Military's facility in Getafe, Spain, at 5:41 a.m. EDT (11:41 a.m. local time) and landed there after a flight of approximately two hours.

The FSTA is the United Kingdom's configuration of the Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), the tanker that EADS North America is offering to the United States Air Force in the KC-45 configuration. That tanker has been selected by four U.S. allies so far, and has completed hundreds of flight hours and more than a thousand refueling contacts for the Royal Australian Air Force, which will accept its first two deliveries in the fall.

"We now have A330 multi-role tankers in flight for two U.S. allies, with proven refueling systems that form the foundation of the KC-45 configuration," said EADS North America Chairman Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. "In other words, the tanker we are offering to the United States Air Force isn't just a concept on paper, it is real and proving itself every day."

The FSTA configuration includes two digital hose-and-drogue refueling pods under the wings, plus a hose-and-drogue fuselage refueling unit on the centerline. Both of these systems will be on the KC-45, as will be the company's advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System, which recently demonstrated in flight its ability to meet the U.S. Air Force requirement for high fuel offload at 1,200 gallons a minute.

"Our platform is mature, our systems are proven and there are 48,000 American workers ready to build this superior tanker aircraft for the U.S. Air Force," Crosby said. The KC-45, as well as A330-based commercial freighter aircraft, will be assembled in a new aerospace center of excellence in Mobile, Alabama, using a nationwide network of more than 200 American suppliers.

Because of the superior capabilities and efficiency of the tanker, the EADS North America KC-45 will also provide the Air Force substantial savings in operating costs compared to the concept aircraft that The Boeing Company is offering.

"In any likely Air Force operational scenario, Boeing's concept tanker will cost 15% to 44% more, measured on the basis of fuel burned per gallon of fuel delivered," Crosby said. "We are offering the Air Force real savings from a real airplane – which is a clear distinction with our competitor."

Press release issued by Airbus Group North America, Inc. on September 17, 2010


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