Air Transportation: AirBus Clobbers Russia Again


May 28, 2009: The Indian Air Force decided to buy six Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) rather than six Russian IL-78 aerial tankers. India has already been using six IL-78s since 2003, but felt the MRTT was a better value. India has been souring on Russian military equipment for the last decade, and this is another example. Poor reliability and maintenance support, as well as unpredictable pricing, has led India to depend increasingly on the West for military gear.

 The Airbus MRTT is based on the twin engine Airbus 330-300, which normally sells for $160 million each. The 233 ton MRTT carries 111 tons of fuel, plus 43 tons of cargo (26 pallets). The MRTT can also carry 238 passengers, because the main deck is not occupied with fuel containers (as is the case with the IL-78). All the fuel is carried in the wing and tail tanks. This makes the MRTT much more flexible, and capable of moving lots of cargo or troops, as needed.

The four engine, 220 ton IL-78 is not convertible (to carry freight), and only carries fuel (138 tons). India will buy the MRTTs for about $167 million each, with delivery beginning in three years.



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