NATO has taken an important step in improving its ability to refuel aircraft in mid-air, with two Allies joining a European programme to acquire and operate new tanker transport aircraft.
Defence Ministers from Germany and Norway joined a Memorandum of Understanding for a European multinational fleet of Airbus tanker transport aircraft, originally created by the lead-nation Netherlands and Luxembourg. The two countries launched the initiative in July 2016 by ordering two Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft, which are due to be delivered in 2020. With Germany and Norway joining the initiative, the fleet is expected to expand to up to seven aircraft.
This multinational fleet arrangement is a concrete step towards reducing the overall European shortage in air-to-air refueling and the over-reliance on U.S. capabilities. At today’s signing ceremony, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment Camille Grand stressed that “this initiative highlights the value of a multinational approach to capability development – working together provides cost-effective and flexible solutions.”
Belgium intends to join this programme in early 2018, and the initiative remains open to other new members. The procurement programme is another example of the increasingly close cooperation between NATO and the European Union.