The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) has conducted air-to-air refuelling (AAR) with the US Navy’s P-8A patrol aircraft.

This marks the first-ever AAR between the two aircraft in an operational setting.

The maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft belonged to US Patrol Squadron 47 (VP-47) and the KC-30A was from RAAF No. 33 Squadron.

The AAR was conducted during an evolution for the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Certification Period.

The refuelling event was conducted to enhance interoperability between the RAAF and the US Navy.

RAAF No. 86 Wing commanding officer group captain Taylor said: “AAR provides a means of overcoming challenges to joint forces operating in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly by allowing aircraft to operate at much longer ranges.

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“Refuelling a surveillance aircraft like the P-8A also provides it with persistence in the joint space and adds flexibility to how it might support the fleet.”

Aerial refuelling provides a longer endurance time to aircraft during missions, eliminating the need for them to land to obtain fuel.

In this AAR exercise, the KC-30A and P-8A flew in close formation at a speed of 500mph.

The two aircraft then aligned to connect the 55ft-long refuelling boom to start the refuelling process.

Commander Task Force Seven Two (CTF-72) commodore captain Clifford Toraason said: “We were excited to participate in this historic refuelling event between the RAAF and USN.

“Every chance to continue to improve our interoperability with such a close and valued ally as Australia is a valuable opportunity.”

In January 2021, the RAAF signed a contract with Airbus for the maintenance of the air refuelling boom system (ARBS) equipped on the MRTT.

Furthermore, the RAAF KC-30A conducted AAR with a Singaporean tanker in 2020.