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Airbus explores multi-mission A320neo
MPA variant of A320neo. © Airbus

Airbus explores multi-mission A320neo

Not content with selling thousands of A320neos to airline customers, Airbus is exploring the market for specially equipped versions of the aircraft targeted at military customers.

Not content with selling thousands of A320neos to airline customers, Airbus is exploring the market for specially equipped versions of its single-aisle best-seller targeted at military customers.

The new versions — collectively designated A320M3A (for modular multi-mission aircraft) — would be designed to fulfill a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles, particularly maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare. SIGINT and AEW&C variants are also being looked at.

The aircraft can also be outfitted with modular roll-on/roll-off payloads for airlift missions ranging from carrying passengers, troops and VIPs to medical evacuation (medevac) and transporting cargo.

Airbus says the studies come in response to market demand, spurred by the growing use of more capable ISR systems which require physically larger host platforms with increased electrical power and more efficient cooling systems than previously were the case for C4ISR aircraft.  

One of the biggest applications of the A320M3A, according to Airbus, is for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare, with countries in Europe and elsewhere seeking replacements for ageing aircraft – many of which will be encouraged to develop fleet commonality driven by the intensive growth of joint operations with member nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

In addition to proven reliability and worldwide support, the A320M3A also benefits from being a low-risk solution: being based on Airbus’ highly-mature A320 airliner family in high-rate production; and building on the company’s proven capabilities in producing military derivatives of its commercial aircraft – such as the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which is in use by military services around the globe.

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