As any aircraft is superseded, military conversions can significantly extend their useful lives.
A number of air forces acquired the Airbus A310 as VIP aircraft and troop and/or freight transports. The only one to buy a brand new aircraft was the Royal Thai Air Force, which took delivery of a VIP-configured A310-300 for use by the Royal Flight on 5 November 1991. The Canadian Forces boosted their strategic airlift capability with five ex-Wardair/Canadian Airlines International A310s in 1992/93. Redesignated CC-150 Polaris, the five aircraft were delivered in a 194-seat passenger configuration, but four were subsequently converted by Sogerma in Bordeaux to a passenger/cargo combi layout. This required some 100,000 engineering and production hours, which included a new main deck cargo door, fuselage and flooring reinforcement, a cargo loading system, and a removable bulkhead and smoke curtain to separate cargo and troops. The fifth aircraft remains in a VIP layout. All are operated by 437 Squadron at 8 Wing, Trenton, Ontario, and are used to re-supply Canadian Forces personnel across the world.
Germany's Luftwaffe operates seven CF6-80C2A2-powered A310-300s and is seeking to acquire two more, to bolster its long-range fleet in the face of increasing logistics demands. The creation of a rapid reaction force, a rise in humanitarian operations, and the new tactical training unit in Mexico, are all making additional demands on its resources. Two A310s replaced two Boeing 707s at the end of 1999, and two of the existing A310s were modified to tanker transports in 2003. The Luftwaffe acquired its first three aircraft in May 1991 when the former East Germany carrier Interflug ceased operations, and further enlarged its fleet between November 1996 and November 1998 with four ex-Lufthansa machines. Five are operated in VIP configuration, and two as passenger/cargo combi aircraft.
Two A310-300s are flown by Transport Squadron 3/60 of the French Air Force (Armee de 1'Air) out of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Both have 180 minutes ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Operations) and are used primarily as VIP transports. The A310s were bought from Royal Jordanian in November 1993. The Belgian Air Force obtained two secondhand A310-200s from Singapore Airlines in September 1997 and April 1998, also for use as VIP transports. The Pratt & Whitney-powered aircraft are operated by 21 Squadron on military and government transport duties, as well as international relief flights.
Multi-role aircraft conversions.
With the order book for the A310 diminishing and tailing off, Airbus Industrie is hoping that a more determined incursion into the military market will provide a lifeline for the A310. Recognising that reduced defence spending will demand future multi-role aircraft, which are capable of simultaneously carrying out air-to-air refuelling (AAR) and transport operations, Airbus is offering the A310 in MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) configuration. With the KC-135 in particular nearing the end of its useful life, the demand for replacement tankers will undoubtedly accelerate, and derivatives of
current wide-body aircraft will offer a more cost-effective solution than building a dedicated aircraft from scratch. In addition to offering greater refuelling capacity than earlier airliners, the A310 would also have an advantage in operating costs and longer airframe life. At a price tag in the region of US $30m for a modified second-hand machine, such an aircraft should prove attractive to potential customers. Australia, Canada and Germany are all believed to be in the market for such an aircraft. Studies have indicated a potential market for 100 military tanker/transport aircraft by 2010, of which half are expected to be MRTTs. A demonstrator was produced by the conversion of a former airline A310-300 (N816PA), which undertook compatibility trials with Royal Air Force aircraft in 1995. No orders had been placed by September 1999.
The A310 MRTT can be converted from existing models or can be new-build aircraft.