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Australian Tanker Aircraft Takes First Air Refuelling Test

23 October 2009

An A330 multirole tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has performed its first in-flight refuelling test.

The aircraft, equipped with an air refuelling boom system (ARBS), performed the test with two F16s from the Portuguese Air Force as receiver planes.

The test validates the integration of the refuelling system into the airframe and operational capability of all systems on the aircraft along with the fuel transfer capability through the boom system.

The flight lasted four hours and 30 minutes, during which a total of 13 contacts were performed and over 1.5t of fuel was transferred.

The boom, which is located underneath the rear fuselage of the tanker aircraft, is remotely controlled from a console in the cockpit, where an operator uses an advanced technology 2/3D viewing system.

The ARBS supports refuelling up to an altitude of 35,000ft while cruising at speeds of 180kt to 325kt in all weather, day or night with stereoscopic vision and lighting systems.

The 17m-long ARBS can reduce refuelling time with its high fuel transfer rate of up to 1,200gal a minute at 50psi.

The boom is equipped with an automatic load alleviation system, has an auto-disconnect envelope for each receiver, and has been designed under the back-up concept (fail operational, fail safe).

On-ground refuelling tests through conventional hose and drogue system were conducted in September 2009, transferring over 200t of fuel.

The A330 MRTT is expected to be delivered to the RAAF by mid 2010.