NATO MRTT tanker conducts first ever air-to-air refueling mission with Czech JAS-39 Gripen

Story by Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit Public Affairs Office

Just two weeks after their first encounter over Czech territory, the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) successfully conducted their first air-to-air (AAR) refueling mission with Czech JAS-39 Gripen on 27 February 2024. The Czech Air Force fighters joined the A330 Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) tanker for AAR training in the airspace over Pardubice. This mission marks the end of an intensive certification process. MMU can now add another aircraft to their portfolio of receivers.


Continuously striving for improvement

The first test flights with the fighter from the Swedish company SAAB were conducted in October 2022, in close collaboration with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV T&E). Two modified Gripen were engaged in these test flights. This allowed the measurement of forces on the probe during air-to-air refueling, as well as measuring specific fuel pressures in the system. The test campaign took place over Swedish airspace, while the tanker departed from Eindhoven Airbase, the Main Operating Base of the MMU.



Receiver nations usually initiate the certification process for the NATO MRTT Fleet (MMF). The Dutch Military Aviation Authority reviews the documents in close coordination with the MMU and determines if real testing is necessary. “If there is an existing AAR clearance with an aircraft from different nations, we check for differences between them and decide, whether further testing is required” explains the MMU test pilot. “We then create a test plan for the specific aircraft type”. The MMF is currently certified to refuel over 13 different types of aircraft. Several others are in the process of certification.


Reliable partnership

The Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Fleet (MMF) provides strategic transport, air-to-air refueling (both boom and hose and drogue) and medical evacuation capabilities to its six participating nations: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway.



The fleet, consisting of seven Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft, which will grow to ten by 2026, is owned by NATO and managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The fleet is operated by the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU), comprising of military personnel from the participating countries. The unit is based at the Main Operating Base (MOB) in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) and the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Cologne (Germany).

NSPA provides this support to participating nations through its MRTT Fleet Support Partnership.



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