The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) A330 multirole tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the country’s defence minister Stephen Smith has revealed.
Speaking during the recently concluded Australian International Airshow in Avalon, Smith said that the A330 MRTT was primarily designed to perform airborne refuelling for air combat aircraft and will be operated to enhance the country’s overall air lift capability.
Airbus Military Derivative Programmes vice president Antonio Caramazana said the IOC announcement reaffirms that the A330 MRTT is the only certified and flying new generation tanker / transport in the world.
The IOC milestone comprises of the aircraft’s ability to carry full load of passengers and also refuel F/A-18A Hornet fighters through the hose and drogue method during day and night, as reported by Flight Global.
Around five A330 MRTTs were ordered by the RAAF to replace its Boeing 707 tanker transporter fleet in 2005, and the last was delivered to the RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, in early December 2012.
The air force also completed the first Australian pilot and Air Refuelling Operator courses at the MRTT training centre, which is located at the same base, later that month.
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Designated KC-30A in the RAAF service, the aircraft is a derivative of Airbus A330 civilian aircraft, and is operated by the No. 33 Squadron for cover hose-and-drogue refuelling and strategic passenger transport missions.
The aircraft is equipped with two underwing refuelling pods, the fly-by-wire Airbus Military aerial refuelling boom system (ARBS) and a universal aerial refuelling receptacle slipway installation (UARRSI), which enables it to refuel from another tanker.
Currently undergoing clearance tests for the F/A-18F Super Hornets and further modification and testing on its refuelling boom, the aircraft is expected to attain its final operating capability in 2014.
Image: The Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft prepares for take-off. Photo courtesy of Andrew Mclaughlin.