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RAAF conducts first air-to-air refuelling with Indonesian Air Force

Pilot perspective from an Indonesian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during an air-to-air refuelling training activity with a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) from No. 33 Squadron.

The Royal Australian Air Force has conducted air-to-air refuelling with Indonesia for the first time.

The Royal Australian Air Force has conducted air-to-air refuelling with Indonesia for the first time.

A RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport refuelled seven F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force during 60 flying sorties within Indonesian airspace from 6 to 12 August.

Aircraft fly in tight formation at around 650km/h while a No. 33 Squadron KC-30A extends a 19-metre advanced refuelling boom system during air-to-air refuelling.

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Commanding Officer of No. 33 Squadron Wing Commander Neil Bowen said the successful training facilitated closer and more strategic engagement between the nations.

“This training ensures both countries are contributing to the collective security in the Indo-Pacific,” WGCDR Bowen said.

“It allows the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara to be more agile and combat-ready when supporting any contingency missions and provides RAAF aviators continued experience in conducting highly skilled refuelling operations in a new environment.

“Airborne refuelling is a challenge; it is a fast injection of flammable jet fuel from a tanker aircraft into a receiving aircraft, which will extend flying endurance.

“It is a vital force multiplier for air operations, allowing aircraft to cross greater distances and remain within the battlespace for longer without the need to land.”

The day and night flying exercise required 60 sorties and up to 189 boom contacts between the KC-30A and the F-16 Fighter Falcons over five days.

RAAF Detachment Lead on this activity, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Brinkmann said a highlight was observing the growing confidence among the crew and the Indonesian pilots over consecutive flying days.

“TNI-AU are wonderful hosts and highly professional and friendly operators,” FLTLT Brinkmann said.

“It’s been really satisfying gaining a deeper understanding and respect, as we work together improving with each sortie.

“In addition, the Indonesian archipelago is a beautiful sight, especially at 20,000 feet with a nearby volcano simmering away.

“Apart from this being our first refuelling with Indonesia, we are helping TNI-AU pilots stay current in their mid-air refuelling capabilities and also developing new AAR (air-to-air refuelling) qualifications for their pilots.

“The training has been mutually beneficial, as we don’t have a domestic F-16 capability, but many of our partners and allies do.

“The F-16 is a tricky receiver for an air refuelling operator to connect, so this is a great chance for our operators to gain familiarity with F-16 aircraft.”

Australia recently completed air-to-air refuelling trials with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15J and F-15DJ Eagle jets for the first time earlier this year.

A total of 11 flights and 325 contacts were made between the aircraft in those flights from 29 March to 26 April.

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