The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is set to carry out trials of the external fuel tanks on two of its C-130J Hercules military transport aircraft over the next year.

The tanks have been designed and developed to significantly increase the fuel capacity of the RAAF aircraft from 19t to 27t, and are expected to be used for a wide range of missions.

The first C-130J Hercules to receive the tanks, serial A97-440, was delivered to the air force’s No. 37 Squadron (37SQN) based at RAAF Base Richmond.

The aircraft was handed over to the service following a routine scheduled maintenance carried out by Airbus Group Australia Pacific.

“This trial will determine how these tanks might benefit our future airlift operations.”

RAAF Air Mobility Group commander air commodore William Kourelakos said: “Extra fuel is useful during Forward Arming and Refuelling Point operations, where the crew land and offload fuel to another aircraft, vehicle or storage tank.

“The fuel tanks can also extend range or endurance during certain missions, allowing us to be more persistent in an area such as during search and rescue missions.”

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“Carrying that extra fuel brings weight and drag considerations, so this trial will determine how these tanks might benefit our future airlift operations.”

The external fuel tanks used in the current trial have been upgraded and modified from remaining stock after the retirement of the C-130H Hercules aircraft in 2012.

In 1999, the C-130J variant was launched into RAAF service without external fuel tanks.

The fuel tanks are likely to be trialled next month by the air force during Operation Christmas Drop in Guam.

Between August and September, the RAAF carried out eight refuelling trials using its KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) jet and the US Air Force’s (USAF) F-22 Raptor stealth tactical fighter aircraft in California.