The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) launched on Thursday the bid for the acquisition of two Airbus A330-200s that will be used for military transport and aerial refueling.
Subsequently, the two jets used will be converted to the MRTT (Multirole Tanker Transport) standard, a process carried out by Airbus and consisting of the installation of under-wing pods equipped with a hose and drogue refueling system.
The A330 MRTT can also carry up to 300 passengers or be used in an air medical evacuation (MedEvac) configuration.
The public notice requires that the aircraft must have been manufactured from January 2014 onwards and not have more than 28,000 flight hours and 4,200 cycles. Another bidding requirement restricts models equipped only with Rolls-Royce or General Electric turbofans – Pratt & Whitney also supplies engines for the widebody.
The budget for the program is capped at $80.6 million. Proposals are due to be delivered on March 7 at the Air Force rem Washington office in the US.
Purchase directed to Airbus
Brazil’s interest in a large passenger aircraft capable of being converted for in-flight refueling and transport is quite old. Previous administrations launched the KC-X2 program, which planned to acquire two Boeing 767s to be converted for this purpose, but budget constraints and questions about the bidding ended up ending the project.
In 2016, the Air Force leased a civilian Boeing 767-300, which was used only for transportation until 2019, when it was returned to the lessor.
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro, however, announced plans to acquire two A330 jets, after logistical problems faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, but there were difficulties in raising funds for the KC-X3 program.
The tender, however, defined that only the A330-200 is capable of meeting the project’s requirements. According to the tender documents, the request that justifies the need for Airbus planes was approved by the Air Force General Staff after a study presented at the end of last year.
While the purchase of second-hand passenger planes should attract competitors such as leasing companies and companies interested in decommissioning them, the conversion to the MRTT standard will have to be done with Airbus, which in theory directs the bidding to the manufacturer.
There are other providers capable of offering a passenger plane conversion for aerial refueling, such as IAI. The Israeli company converts Boeing 767 jets to the MMTT (Multi Mission Tanker Transport) standard.
The Colombian Air Force has operated the MMTT since 2010 and IAI was the original winner of the canceled KC-2X competition.