The operational capability of the Royal Australian Air Force’s KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft fleet has taken another important step forward with the first operational refuelling of fighter aircraft with the tanker’s advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System.
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The boom was used to successfully refuel two United States Air Force (USAF) F-16C Fighting Falcon single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft from the 480th Fighter Squadron during a mission in support of counter-Daesh operations in the Middle East region.
The commencement of F-16 refuelling broadens the tanker’s ability to support the US-led multi-national coalition in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
The Commander Air Task Group, Air Commodore Phil Gordon said the milestone has further enhanced Australia’s reputation in the coalition environment.
“The KC-30A is highly regarded by the coalition in-theatre due to its high reliability and excellent hose-and-drogue refuelling capability,” AIRCDRE Gordon said.
“The introduction of a boom refuelling capability for USAF F-16s further enhances the utility of the KC-30A in the coalition fight against Daesh.
“The flexibility of having both types of air-to-air refuelling systems means the Australian KC-30A can be rapidly re-tasked airborne to support a greater proportion of fighters if their scheduled tanker is unavailable.
“The Australian crews operate with high situational awareness to ensure they are in the right place at the right time to assist the fighters.
“With the introduction of the boom capability there will now be a large number of USAF F-16’s able to experience the excellent service provided by our Australian tanker capability.”
The KC-30A achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in December 2013, and then rapidly deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation OKRA in September 2014.
Back in late 2015 an Airbus A330 MRTT of the RAAF successfully refuelled a F-35A Joint Strike Fighter of the US Air Force.
During a four-hour sortie from Edwards AFB, California, the tanker, known in RAAF service as the KC-30A, conducted 59 contacts including five “wet contacts” during which 19,600 kilograms of fuel were passed.
All the refuelling was performed using the A330 MRTT’s airborne refuelling boom system (ARBS).
The combat-proven A330 MRTT is the only new generation tanker/transport certified and in-service and the first to refuel the F-35A, underlining its full international interoperability with all western front-line fighters.