The Dutch Acquire A330MRTTs Through a European Approach

By Robbin Laird

An insertion force is characterized by strike, defense, lift, tanking and air battle management that can be effectively integrated to get to an objective area, and then to operate over and within until mission success.

Sustainable reach is a fundamental operational objective.

This means that lift and tanking assets are much more than “support” assets, they are part of the overall sustainable assault force.

For 21st century airpower, several changes are underway with regard to capabilities, and few can be more important than the arrival of new tankers, especially when adding multi-mission capabilities to its core function.

A virtual global fleet of Airbus tankers is emerging based on this need.

Now the Dutch Air Force is joining the global fleet.

According to a press release by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, dated July 28, 2016:

The Netherlands is ready to purchase 2 Airbus tanker/transport aircraft with Luxembourg.  The aircraft will be NATO property and will be stationed at Eindhoven Air Base for pooling and sharing. Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland intend to join the agreement at a later date. 

The MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) project is an example of the type of future-oriented collaboration between European countries that the government advocates. Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert wrote to the House of Representatives to that effect today.

The purchase of the MRTT A330 type aircraft is an important contribution in addressing the scarce tanker and transport capability of the European Union in particular. In addition to refuelling aircraft and strategic transports, MRTT aircraft can also be used for carrying out medical evacuations, if necessary in intensive care units.

Netherlands leading

The fleet will be NATO property. The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European materiel organisation Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement (OCCAR) are closely involved in the purchase of the aircraft, on behalf on the NATO Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA). Luxembourg and the Netherlands will have exclusive user rights. In addition to the purchase, the MRTT project also covers maintenance and operational deployment. The Netherlands is the lead nation in this multinational collaboration project.

The new aircraft will be stationed at Eindhoven Air Base. The Netherlands will also be responsible for registering the aircraft and monitoring their airworthiness. A study will be carried out to determine whether European Air Transport Command, which is also stationed in Eindhoven, will be able to supervise the MRTT pool.

Costs and personnel will be allocated on the basis of the number of flying hours that each country needs. The expected life span of the fleet is 30 years and the investment budget is between €250 million and €1 billion.


The Netherlands and Luxembourg recorded the agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The contract with Airbus was signed today. If Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland decide to take part in the agreement, both the MoU and the quotation given by Airbus allow for expansion. If more countries do indeed decide to join, the design costs will be shared with these countries too, leading to lower costs for Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The number of A330 MRTT aircraft to be purchased could eventually rise to 8. According to the National Aerospace Laboratory, Eindhoven Air Base has sufficient room for manoeuvre in its allotted noise zones to accommodate 8 A330 MRTT aircraft.


The 2 participating countries are examining the possibility of collaboration with France and the United Kingdom, among others, in relation to training and instruction as well as maintenance. France is set to receive its first A330 aircraft in 2018. The United Kingdom already has A330 MRTTs in service.

The 2 aircraft will be delivered from 2020. In the same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will start to gradually decommission its 2 KDC-10 aircraft. This will ensure that tanker/transport capability will remain available to the Netherlands Defence organisation.

MMF Background White Paper

The Dutch currently fly KC-10 tankers and are replacing them with A330MRTTs.

The photo is credited to the Dutch Ministry of Defence.