The Royal Saudi Air Force A330MRTT fleet will increase to 10 units once deliveries of four new planes arrive (Airbus)

BELFAST — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has signed off on a deal with Airbus for four additional A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) planes to support air-to-air refuelling and transport operations.

Airbus did not disclose the value of the order but said in a statement today that the first of the four new aircraft will undergo conversion “at the beginning of 2026.”

It also noted that the contract covers a logistics support package including spare parts, training services and service support for all four aircraft.

The latest order will increase the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) A330 fleet to 10 platforms, after previous deals with Airbus were signed in 2008 and 2009. The tankers are operated by RSAF’s 24 Squadron and based out of Prince Sultan Air Base, Al-Kharj.

They are all configured with hose and drogue pods, boom systems and refuelling receptables, meaning boom-equipped tankers can refuel them, according to Airbus.

The manufacturer also said that an industrial participation agreement signed with Saudi’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) in January 2024 is linked to the new order, and relates specifically to “the development and growth of the industrial ecosystem in the region in support of Vision 2030, a Saudi-government programme that aims to diversify the country’s economy.”

The Vision 2030 initiative is based around the ambition of KSA achieving a 50 percent localization rate for defense equipment by the end of the decade. Part of that effort requires foreign defense firms to make KSA the home of their regional headquarters, something companies have been slow-rolling.

Additionally, the participation agreement covers the “transfer of technology and knowhow of the RSAF A330 MRTT to local companies,” noted Airbus.

A joint venture between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and Airbus, known as SAAMS, will be the “main vehicle for industrial localisation,” added the European manufacturer.

Airbus is also campaigning to sell A400M airlifters to Saudi Arabia.

“We know there is an interest in the A400M, and we will address it with the Saudi Air Force and the Ministry of Defence,” Jean-Brice Dumond, head of Air Power at Airbus told Singapore’s Business Times, in February.