On March 30, 2006 the first phase of the ARBS (Air Refueling Boom System) flight
test program has successfully been completed after 3 years of development, where
EADS CASA has completed the design and manufacture of this new generation
refueling boom. Preliminary results of the tests have shown the aircraft's
handling qualities are not influenced by the boom installation.
The flight test program is devoted to prove the performance of the new boom
installed on an Airbus platform and it includes, for instance, opening the work
envelope of the tanker or performing dry/wet contacts with an F-16.
This first phase of the test program, with the boom flying at stowed position,
started with the first flight on March 16, 2006. Last flight (6th) was
successfully performed on March 30.
Three have been the objectives of this phase of the flight test program: to
clear the aircraft envelope of flutter effects and check that the whole flight
envelope of the aircraft is free of non-damped vibrations, to evaluate the
Handling Qualities of the aircraft with the boom installed in stowed position,
and to check the potential influence of the boom mast on the Auxiliary Power
Unit (APU) air intake.
Preliminary results of these tests have shown that the aircraft platform and
boom structure are free of any form of flutter vibration, the influence of the
boom installation on the aircraft handling qualities has proved to be minimal
and that there is no influence on the APU air intake.
With this successful start, the development of this new boom system takes an
important step forward. The ARBS will place EADS in the forefront of air
Besides an advanced boom main structure, the ARBS has fly-by-wire controls,
including an automatic load alleviation system, that gives a larger refueling
envelope and improved controllability. The maximum nominal fuel flow is 1200 US
gal./min. A boom operator, RARO (Remote Aerial Refueling Operator), sat at a
station located in the cockpit, controls an artificial 3D-vision surveillance
system during the entire air-to-air refueling process.
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