Airbus C295 passes milestone in tanker test campaign

Airbus’ C295 medium-lift tactical transport has successfully achieved its first wet contacts as part of an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) flight-test campaign.  

The wet contacts took place earlier this month – operating from Seville, Spain – with a Ejército del Aire [EdA/Spanish Air Force] C295M from Ala 35 (35th Wing) acting as a receiver to an Airbus-operated C295W, fitted out in tanker configuration with a removable AAR kit. The test was conducted at flight speeds between 100-130kts (115-149mph).

Airbus C295W aerial refuelling [Airbus]
A Spanish Air Force C295M receives fuel from an Airbus C295W during wet contact flight testing. Airbus

The flight saw a total of five wet contacts and the transfer of 1.5 tonnes (47.63 US gal) of fuel in daylight conditions.

This follows the first dry contacts of the flight tests, which took place in December 2019 – using a closed ramp configuration, 100ft (30.48m) hose and a remote vision system.

Capt Gabiña, the Spanish Air Force pilot who participated in the test campaign, said: “The degree of difficulty in flight test is always high since it involves performing [manoeuvres] that no one has done before. It should be noted that due to the positive behaviour of the aircraft, the operation has been good and straightforward”.

So far, the AAR flight test campaign has also included night flying operations, along with a successful proximity test in a pre-contact position with a Spanish Air Force EF-18M Hornet multi-role fighter at a flight speed of 210kts (241.66mph).

C-295W AAR [Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta]
New production C295W c/n S-171 landing at Seville-San Pablo Airport, Spain, on December 3 following a flight test with the new hose-and-drogue air-to-air refuelling system mounted at the top of the rear loading ramp. Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta

As reported in the February issue of AirForces Monthly, the removable kit has been fitted to new production C295W c/n S-171 (still flying painted in primer) and tested with EdA C295M T.21-13 ‘35-51’ from Ala 35/353 Escuadrón at Getafe air base.

The modular system, including a hose-and-drogue unit fitted to the rear loading ramp, enables a standard transport C295 to be easily transformed into a tanker, giving the ability to transfer up to around 13,230lb (6,000kg) of fuel to other aircraft or helicopters. A variety of manoeuvres were undertaken to test the stability of the refuelling basket and three initial dry hook-ups (ie, without fuel transfer) have been completed.