The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has conducted trial refuelings using the boom of a Airbus Military KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).
The work took place off the cost of New South Wales during the first two weeks of June, says Australia’s ministry in a statement. It involved refueling an RAAF Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft.
“Once the trial results are assessed an initial clearance is expected to be granted to allow Wedgetail crews to begin refuelling training flights with the KC-30A,” says Wing Cdr. Christian Martin.
RAAF KC-30As, which are based on the A330-200 airliner, have been cleared for hose and drogue refuelling since early 2013, when the type obtained Initial Operational Capability in Australian service.
In January 2011, the first KC-30A due for Australia was involved in an in-flight refueling training incident that, as Airbus Military put it, caused the aircraft "some limited damage."
The incident saw part of the boom broken off, and minor damage to a Portuguese F-16 fighter, which was involved in the testing programme. This resulted in significant delays to the boom capability being implemented, while issues were worked through with Airbus at its Seville, Spain facility.
By 2023, only 36 RAAF aircraft will still use hose-and-drogue refueling, its 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and 12 EA-18G Growlers. The remaining 100 aircraft in its fleet, including the Lockheed Martin F-35, will require boom refueling.
This is the reverse of the status quo, as 95 RAAF aircraft use hose-and-drogue for air-to-air refueling, and 17 use the boom.
Moreover, the boom is essential for refueling aircraft from allied forces, namely Singapore's F-15s and F-16s, and USAF assets.