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The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has successfully completed the first fuel transfer from an RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to a US Air Force (USAF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the refuelling event saw a total of 59 contacts, of which five of these contacts transferred 43,200lb of fuel during the four hour sortie.

Chief of the Air Force air marshal Leo Davies AO CSC said: "Mid-air refuelling is critical to ensuring global reach for our aircraft, our people and our equipment.

"Refuelling between the KC-30A and F-35A is an important step towards the KC-30A’s achievement of final operational capability (FOC) and represents continued progress in the development of the F 35A.

The KC-30A features two refuelling systems such as the hose-and-drogue and advanced refuelling boom system (ARBS).

"This achievement is significant because the future of Australia’s air combat capability is reliant on the successful partnership between these two aircraft."

With these systems, the KC-30A will be capable of supporting a wide range of coalition aircraft on Operation OKRA in support combat operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Davies added: "This achievement is significant because the future of Australia’s air combat capability is reliant on the successful partnership between these two aircraft and our ability to be interoperable with our international partners."

Currently, the RAAF operates five KC-30As, each with the capacity to carry more than 100t of fuel, allowing the aircraft to fly at a range of 1800km from its home base.

In July, the Australian Ministry of Defence (MoD) placed an order with Airbus Defence and Space for two additional KC-30A aircraft and associated conversion.


Image: RAAF’s KC-30A transfers fuel into a US Air Force F-35A JSF. Photo: courtesy of USAF / Jonathan Case.