Canada to Acquire Airbus A330MRTT Tankers

By Michael Marrow

Canada’s National Defence Department announced today that it has awarded a contract to Airbus for a total of nine aircraft to modernize its refueling fleet, a $3.6 billion CAN ($2.7 billion US) deal that should see delivery of the first jet to the country within months.

“As autocratic regimes threaten the rules-based international order, there is a pressing need to modernize the capabilities of the Royal Canadian Air Force in support of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and North American Aerospace Defense Command operations,” Canadian Minister of National Defence Anita Anand said in a statement.

“The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability brought forward today with the contract award for renewed air-to-air refueling, strategic transport and aeromedical evacuation capabilities, will deliver modern equipment for our Canadian Armed Forces, who put their lives on the line every single day to defend our shared continent with the U.S., and support our allies in time of need,” she added.

The contract covers the new build of four A330 MRTTs and the military conversion of five used A330-200 aircraft, a decision the Canadian government said saved the country’s taxpayers millions.

Four of the used aircraft are set to be used as refuelers, while the fifth — the first destined for delivery later this summer — will initially transport high-ranking government officials and could take on the tanker mission later.

The second used aircraft is expected in the fall, with the next three to follow next year, according to a summary compiled by Canada’s Defence Department.

An Airbus press release further stated the first of the newly-built tankers will be delivered in 2027 and that all MRTTs will feature both a hose and drogue and boom for refueling.

The tankers will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging CC-150 Polaris fleet to provide refueling, cargo and passenger transport and aeromedical evacuation. While Canada operates five CC-150s, only two of them are capable of refueling. That means the NATO member’s mid-air refueling capacity is about to quadruple with the new agreement.

Canada had previously considered Boeing’s KC-46 for the role but reportedly dropped the company’s tanker from consideration in 2021, subsequently issuing a request for proposals to Airbus in May 2022. The country’s forthcoming tankers will be designated the CC-330 Husky.

Airbus is currently pitching the A330 MRTT in partnership with Lockheed Martin to the US Air Force as the LMXT, though officials have stated they are leaning toward more purchases of Boeing’s KC-46A to continue recapitalizing America’s current KC-135 Stratotanker tanker fleet.

Published by Breaking Defense on July 25, 2023.