BAE offers BAe-146 air tanker variant
Building on the success of the BAe 146/ Avro RJ regional jetliner in a variety of military and special role applications, BAE Systems has unveiled its proposal for a cost-effective air-to-air refuelling (A2R) variant of the aircraft
Speaking at the Defence Services Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in London, Mark Taylor, Business Director Engineering for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, stated: “We believe that the A2R version of the BAe 146/Avro RJ is a sound business proposition for military planners and air forces that need this capability but who are having to face the financial realities of defence budget cutbacks.
“Whether to provide A2R tactical tanker capability or, in particular, to provide realistic A2R training instead of using expensive existing assets, the acquisition of a fleet of these aircraft can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of current refuelling aircraft, whilst delivering excellent performance.”
The design of the aircraft with its high wing and T-tail configuration is ideal for A2R operations. BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has already carried out proximity flight trials using a BAe 146-200, Avro RJ85 and Hawk jet trainer. This was successfully completed and confirmed that the aerodynamic environment behind the quad jet is benign and the aircraft therefore has considerable potential as an A2R aircraft for refuelling a range of aircraft types and sizes.
It is considered the BAe 146/Avro RJ might be particularly suitable as a tanker for tilt-rotor aircraft which can experience additional challenges when in the slipstream of some other tanker aircraft.
The business has carried out design concepts for a hose and drogue unit (HDU)-based system and these included the option for additional fuel tanks within the cabin. The standard tankage on the BAe 146/ Avro RJ gives up to approximately 7,000 kg of fuel available for transfer – sufficient for A2R training at the lowest capital cost. Additional auxiliary fuel tanks in the cabin would provide up to about 18,000 kg of fuel available for transfer, making the aircraft a useful tactical refuelling airtanker.
The wide airspeed range of the aircraft gives flexibility in refuelling the variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft currently in service. In this role the aircraft can fly up to 300 knots indicated air speed/M.072 at 31,000 ft (BAe 146) or 35,000 ft (Avro RJ).