Air-to-Air Refuelling Fact Sheet

Educate – Communicate – Cooperate

Global Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) Capability — A Team Effort

AAR is a Force Multiplier

In 2016 NATO & EU leaders signed a Joint Declaration officially mandating greater inter-organisational cooperation. Under strategic guidance to develop ‘coherent, complementary & interoperable defence capabilities’,1 AAR action officers at the strategic levels of both organisation aligned their roadmaps in the following three areas:

  1. Procuring new assets via the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF);
  2. Optimising existing capabilities, including purchasing more A400M air refuelling kits;
  3. Increasing capability by developing procedures for AAR clearances.

Action officers at every level have influenced decision-makers with published works & multinational training events. They have trained more than 250 personnel how to obtain international clearances & plan NATO air refuelling missions. Since 2016 they have combined disparate events into an annual ‘Super Week’. In 2018 they built the first in what is hoped to be a regular program of biannual AAR conferences in Europe. As you can see from the map, increased AAR capability is a global interest. The JAPCC engages with more than 60 nations across the globe. Cooperation by NATO & the EU with nations from the Pacific to the Middle East gives commanders greater flexibility & decreases unnecessary risk.

1. Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, & the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,, accessed 20 February 2019.


MMF’s A330 to Arrive Mission Ready

While standardization of the Technical Compatibility Assessment (TCA) is well underway, data sharing remains a challenge. Mutual recognition between relevant nationally-accredited authorities can overcome this. The authorities in Australia, the United States & Europe utilized this principle to ensure A-330s delivered as part of Europe’s MMF programme will arrive cleared to conduct international air refuelling on their first mission.


Automated Air-to-Air Refuelling

The future of AAR is unmanned. Decision-makers must consider multi-mission UAS’ impact on future joint air & space operations. In 2018, the US Navy awarded a contract for a carrier-based UAS tanker. To ensure Allied A3R technical & operational standardization, the JAPCC provides expertise to the NATO Military Committee Air Standardization Board through the NATO AAR Working Group as it develops a NATO A3R Standardization Agreement; on track for a 2020 release.

AAR Clearance Training

Reducing Risk in AAR

Commanders & planners minimize AAR risk by verifying assets are technically & operationally approved to make contact. Globally, this is accomplished through bi-lateral clearances which confirm legal & monetary arrangements as well as compatibility of items such as physical connections, training & maintenance. A JAPCC-led team has so far trained 110 planners, operators, staff officers & engineers in the clearance process, increasing AAR safety & capability.