Cobham secures French C-135FR support contract

Cobham Mission Systems announced on January 5 that it has secured a three-year contract from Sabena Technics to provide support and maintenance services for the French Air and Space Force’s Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker fleet.

Under the contract, Cobham will provide through-life support (TLS) and air-to-air refuelling (AAR) equipment maintenance services to help Sabena Technics ensure that the effective operation of France’s matured C-135FR fleet is maintained. The firm will also continue to perform dedicated in-service support activities for the AAR pods that are fitted to each tanker aircraft. This work includes exclusive repair and overhaul services, engineering support, obsolescence management and the provision of available spares and repair parts during the remaining years of the C-135FR’s service life.

C-135FR Stratotanker [Cobham]
While France has started to phase the Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker out of operational service, Cobham and Sabena Technics will work together to ensure that the remaining tanker aircraft can continue to operate effectively until they too are withdrawn from service. Cobham

Russell Bailey, vice president of AAR at Cobham Mission Systems in the UK, said: “Since 2009, we have had the pleasure of supporting the Sabena Technics team in Nîmes, and we are extremely pleased to continue this collaboration.

“Our TLS agreements provide customers with long-term cost savings and faster access to parts and technical support and gives us important insight into the full AAR product lifecycle. This ultimately helps to inform and educate product design teams working on next generation AAR solutions,” he added.

AirForces Intelligence data states that, at its peak, the French Air and Space Force operated a total of 14 Stratotankers, comprising 11 C-135FRs and three KC-135RGs. The former began operations with the air arm in August 1985, while the latter entered service in 2014 and was acquired second-hand from the US Air Force. A spokesperson for Cobham confirmed to Key.Aero that this latest TLS contract “only covers France’s C-135FR Stratotankers [and] not the entire fleet.”

On October 7, 2020, the French Air and Space Force retired its first C-135FR (serial 475 ’31-CF’) from operational service, marking the beginning of the end for France’s matured tanker fleet. The platform is being replaced by an eventual fleet of 15 Airbus A330-243 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs), which are known as the Phénix in French service. Deliveries of the new platform continue, with three A330-243 MRTTs having already been handed over to the air arm.