Airbus Defence and Space and the Department of Defence have signed a research agreement to develop automatic air-to-air refuelling capability for the KC-30A’s boom.
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The agreement strengthens the industrial partnership between Airbus and Australia’s defence force, and will help to define the evolution of the KC-30A fleet as it reaches operational maturity and expand its capabilities.
This will result in the KC-30A’s core transport and refuelling capabilities supporting the RAAF’s transformation into a fully integrated force, capable of tackling complex contemporary defence and security challenges.
Fernando Alonso, head of military aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space, said, "The KC-30A offers tremendous combat potential at the heart of the integrated 'Air Force of the Future', including using the platform as a communication node, to maximise air power delivery."
Airbus and Defence also announced the achievement of the Final Operational Capability (FOC) for the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft fleet.
The Minister for Defence Marise Payne congratulated the Royal Australian Air Force on the achievement of FOC for the KC-30A MRTT aircraft fleet.
Minister Payne said the KC-30A was a significant capability multiplier for the RAAF, which has proven itself over Iraq as part of Operation OKRA.
"This is a significant milestone for the fleet, which is now able to refuel a range of aircraft from our Air Force and our international partners," Minister Payne said.
"The KC-30A has been an outstanding asset over Iraq on Operation OKRA, having offloaded over 74 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft, including Australia’s F/A-18A Hornet and E-7A Wedgetail aircraft. It is on the front line, making sure the Hornets can take the fight to Daesh effectively.
"Just one KC-30A can support the deployment of four fighter aircraft over 5,000 kilometres, with 50 personnel and 12 tonnes of equipment. It is an extremely versatile aircraft that is suited to the long ranges of the Australian continent."
The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies said FOC for the KC-30A MRTT is a critical component of Australia's aviation capability.
"It has been transporting passengers and equipment, and refuelling with its 'hose and drogue' technology for some time. The achievement of FOC signifies that our boom refuelling capability is now also fully operational and compatible with a wide range of Australian and international aircraft," AIRMSHL Davies said.
"This tanker has come a long way since its introduction, undertaking significant operational, test and evaluation activities with a range of coalition aircraft, including United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft. This was a vital test of the KC-30A, to ensure we are prepared for our future force, including our F-35A arriving in late 2018."
Based at RAAF Base Amberley, Air Force operates five KC-30A MRTT aircraft. The first KC-30A arrived in Australia in 2011, before achieving initial operational capability in 2013. An additional two aircraft are currently being acquired and are due for delivery in late 2017 and late 2019 respectively.
The KC-30A MRTT has refuelled a wide spectrum of aircraft during its testing, including Australian F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18A/B Hornets, F/A-18F Super Hornets, F/A-18G Growler, C-17A Globemaster and E-7A Wedgetail.
International aircraft have included US Marine Corps F/A-18C/D and AV-8B, US Navy F/A-18E/F/G, US Air Force F-16C and B1-B, Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18, UK Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon, Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoon and Tornado, French Air Force Rafale and German Air Force Tornado.