The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has successfully completed air-to-air refuelling trials between its KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail aircraft.
The latest trial was conducted in airspace off the coast of northern New South Wales. It marked the first refuelling of the Wedgetail from the KC-30A.
Number 2 Squadron (2SQN) commanding officer, wing commander Christian Martin said: "Air-to-air refuelling considerably increases the Wedgetail’s range and endurance, allowing us to provide command and control, and air battlespace management over longer periods.
"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."
The RAAF’s aircraft research and development unit (ARDU) carried out this trial using a 2SQN Wedgetail and Number 33 Squadron (33SQN) KC-30A.
The RAAF has cleared the KC-30A to refuel its fleet of Hornets and Super Hornets using its hose-and-drogue refuelling pods.
This MRTT aircraft that were deployed to Operation OKRA in the Middle East Region have already delivered more than 10,800t of fuel to RAAF and Coalition aircraft since September last year.
In May this year, KC-30A crew successfully completed the first air refuelling boom contact by deploying the 17m-long aerial refuelling boom system (ARBS) during a three-hour flight from RAAF Base Amberley.
The crew made 14 successful contacts between the ARBS and a refuelling receptacle of another KC-30A with the help of fly-by-wire controls.
Currently, the RAAF operates five KC-30As, each with a capacity to carry more than 100t of fuel. This feature will allow the aircraft to fly at a range of 1800km from its home base.
Image: KC-30A refuelling demonstration with F/A-18A Hornets. Photo: courtesy of Chris Phutully from Australia.