The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport has successfully completed refuelling trials with the US Air Force’s (USAF) F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
The RAAF KC-30A, which was operated from Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert, completed 12 sorties with the USAF aircraft during the trials.
The RAAF crew made a total of 479 ‘dry’ and 24 ‘wet’ contacts with the refuelling receptacle on the F-35A with the support of advanced refuelling boom system (ARBS) and transferred more than 95t of fuel.
KC-30A Transition and Receiver clearance manager wing commander Grant Kelly said: "These trials are another important step in building KC-30A capability and the results will inform the training practices of current and future RAAF personnel on both aircraft types.
"Air-to-air refuelling will be an important ‘force multiplier’ for the F-35A fleet, considerably boosting their range and endurance, or allowing them to carry bigger payloads."
As part of the trial, the KC-30A was operated by personnel from No. 33 Squadron, while the aircraft received support from the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit that was integrated within the USAF Test Centre.
Recently, a RAAF KC-30A refuelled a US Marine Corps (USMC) F/A-18C Hornet with engine trouble over Iraq, first of such effort by a RAAF aircraft over a war-zone.
While flying a combat mission against Daesh over Northern Iraq, the USMC Hornet was forced to shut down one of its two engines due to a mechanical issue.
Following this accident, short on fuel, the aircraft crew requested air-to-air refuelling support from the RAAF KC-30A.
Image: RAAF KC-30 Tanker refuels USAF F-35A during the trial. Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Case / USAF.