Nato tanker aircraft ready for anti-ISIS mission in Middle East

New fleet declared ready for German air force operations in Jordan and Iraq

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, second left, visited a Dutch airbase hosting the new fleet. Reuters
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A new fleet of Nato aircraft is ready to deploy to the Middle East to help contain ISIS, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

The modified Airbus A330 tankers are expected to refuel German aircraft in Jordan and Iraq.

Allies in the US-led coalition continue to carry out missile strikes in Iraq and Syria to prevent a resurgence of ISIS.

The A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport Aircraft will be deployed to the region later this year, Mr Stoltenberg said.

A Nato unit piloting seven of the A330s was declared operationally ready in a ceremony at a Dutch airbase on Thursday.

The planes have already flown in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe but were delayed by Covid-19 from being formally certified.

Another two have been ordered for next year. Each one can act as the equivalent of six intensive care units and can refuel other aircraft.

The fleet based in the Netherlands and Germany “is now ready for a full range of missions and operations”, Mr Stoltenberg said.

“These aircraft will provide us with world-class, air-to-air refuelling, air transport and air medical evacuation capabilities.”

The fleet is shared between Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic.

Each country is allocated a number of flight hours according to how much money it contributed to building the aircraft.

Germany, which spent the most, is expected to deploy the A330s in the Middle East for three months.

Air-to-air refuelling often takes place over Jordan for patrols and training missions in Iraq, which were extended by a year in October.

Mr Stoltenberg said the A330s would plug a gap in European air-to-air refuelling capability.

Their joint procurement is seen as a model for Europe as it tries to pool its defence resources after the Russian attack on Ukraine.

“Let this project be an inspiration for many more projects to come,” Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said.

Updated: March 23, 2023, 2:53 PM