The Royal Australian Air Force took a significant step forward in airlift capability when two giant RAAF aircraft conducted air-to-air refuelling for the first time.
The refuelling trials took place during a two-hour sortie off the Queensland coast, between a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and a C-17A Globemaster III cargo aircraft. The aircraft made a number of contacts between the MRTT’s Aerial Refuelling Boom System and a receptacle above the Globemasters’ cockpit.
The two aircraft, both over 50 metres in length, had to fly in close formation, requiring a high degree of skill from the pilots. Air-to-air refuelling will allow Globemasters to fly for much longer and carry heavy payloads further without having to land.
Both the KC-30A and C-17A fleets are based at RAAF Base Amberley, near Ipswich. They are operated by Number 33 Squadron and Number 36 Squadron, respectively. The KC-30A is currently cleared to conduct boom refuelling with the E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft, as well as other KC-30As.
Commanding Officer of the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), Wing Commander Daniel Rich, said that working closely with 33 and 36 Squadrons during the ongoing testing and clearance program is integral to success.
“Our testing uses a team of ARDU flight test aircrew (test pilots, flight test engineers and flight test system specialists) along with pilots and aerial refuelling operators from the operational squadrons working together on the program.
“Our testing program is not just of benefit to the RAAF but, through close cooperation with the United States Air Force flight test system, this clearance activity will also provide a meaningful contribution across allied test and evaluation activities,” Wing Commander Rich said.
The trials are being conducted by the RAAF’s own Air Warfare Centre (AWC), which is responsible for enhancing Air Force’s capability and interoperability in the 21st century. Commander of the AWC, Air Commodore Stephen Meredith, said these trials demonstrate our future operating intent.
“The AWC’s Test and Evaluation Directorate is driving the innovation through our integrated approach. This is a great example of how Air Force, through Project Jericho, is positioning itself for the future,” Air Commodore Meredith said.