The first air-to-air refuelling from an RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to a C-17A Globemaster III occurred on February 10 over Edwards Air Force Base in the United States.
The five-hour sortie was conducted by members of the RAAF’s Air Warfare Centre Aircraft Research and Development Unit, 86 Wing and the United States Air Force (USAF) 418th Flight Test Squadron. During the sortie approximately seven tonnes of fuel was successfully transferred from the KC-30A Advanced Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) to the C-17A.
Air-to-air refuelling of a C-17A significantly increases the aircraft’s range, making it capable of carrying heavy payloads further.
Commander Air Warfare Centre, Air Commodore Stephen Meredith said “One of the core roles of the Air Warfare Centre is to enable Air Force to maximise the effects of Fifth Generational technology. The trials conducted are a clear example of the AWC developing a future force that is agile and adaptive, fully immersed in the information age and truly joint.”
“The Air Warfare Centre’s, Test and Evaluation Directorate, has a vital role driving integration with our coalition partners to enhance warfighter effects. The tests with the C-17A are one part of the Air Warfare Centre’s Flight Test Program. The next steps are Air to Air refuelling trials with the USAF’s F-15 and F-16 aircraft,” he said.
Group Captain Adam Williams, the Officer Commanding of Number 86 Wing said this is a major achievement for the KC-30A MRTT.
“The KC-30A is an outstanding platform and we are seeing it work towards full maturity as we expand the list of receiver aircraft types,” Group Captain Williams said.
“The ARBS is a key enabler for the Air Force with most of the RAAF’s future fleet requiring boom type refuelling rather than hose and drogue”
“The successful refuelling with a USAF C-17A paves the way for trials with our own C-17A’s from No 36 Squadron in the near future.”
RAAF C-17A crews will soon begin refuelling trials with the KC-30A, having trained in the role in late 2015 with a Republic of Singapore Air Force KC-135 tanker.
One KC-30A from Number 33 Squadron, RAAF Base Amberley, is currently deployed to the United States to conduct these trials. More trials between a KC-30A and a USAF C-17A aircraft are scheduled to occur over the coming days, along with refuelling trials with USAF F-15 and F-16 fighters.
The RAAF operates five KC-30A MRTTs, with two more joining the fleet from 2018. The KC-30A has a fuel capacity of more than 100 tonnes, allowing it to fly up to 1800 kilometres from its home base and offload up to 50 tonnes of fuel for four hours.
The RAAF also operates a fleet of eight C-17A transport aircraft, the latest two examples of which were delivered in 2015. These aircraft are extensively employed in support of Defence operations abroad, and are currently conducting missions to Antarctica for the Australian Antarctic Division.
The KC-30A’s ARBS is also compatible with refuelling the F-35A Lightning II, as well as the E-7A Wedgetail, P-8A Poseidon, and other KC-30As. Each KC-30A is also equipped with two hose-and-drogue refuelling pods that are compatible with the RAAF’s own Hornet and Super Hornet strike fighters, and the Growler electronic attack aircraft.