We had already spoken about it on Meta-Defense: Airbus has been working for a few years on an automatic flight refueling system for its A330 MRTT, and had found a launch customer in Singapore. Today, the European aircraft manufacturer announces that its automatic air-to-air refueling (A3R) system has been successfully tested during a flight test campaign involving an F-16.
The flight tests would have taken place a few weeks ago over the Atlantic. They allegedly involved an Airbus MRTT tanker aircraft equipped with the A3R system as well as an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese air force. The test campaign would have required more than 45 hours of flight and involved 120 contacts between the A330 MRTT and the F-16.
The elements revealed by Airbus tell us a little more about the technologies used by A3R and how it works. From the visuals unveiled, it would seem that the refueler's sensors are able to model the shape of the refueled device, and to extrapolate its exact relative position relative to the refueling pole. According to Airbus, the accuracy of the system would be around 2 cm in real time, much better than what a human operator is capable of.
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