First refuel for RAAF KC-30A to F-35

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Jonathan Case

The Royal Australian Air Force completed the first fuel transfer with the air refueling boom from a RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport to a U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter at Edwards Air Force Base in California. A total of 59 contacts were conducted of which five contacts transferred 43,200 pounds of fuel during the four-hour sortie.

Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC, described the trial as a significant step in the development of the KC-30A’s capability.

“Our KC-30A is an essential force multiplier. Mid-air refueling is critical to ensuring global reach for our aircraft, our people and our equipment,” Davies said.

“Refueling between the KC-30A and F-35A is an important step toward the KC-30A’s achievement of final operational capability and represents continued progress in the development of the F 35A.

“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,” Davies said.

The KC-30A has two refueling systems: the hose and drogue and an advanced refueling boom system. The two different refueling systems allow RAAF to support a wide range of coalition aircraft on Operation OKRA where a KC-30A is currently deployed to support combat operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

The five KC-30As are based at RAAF Base Amberley and air force will receive an additional two in 2018. A single KC-30A can carry a fuel load of more than 100 tons and remain 1,800 kilometers from its home base with 50 tons of fuel available for offload, for four hours.

Australia has committed to 72 F-35As for RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, with the first aircraft arriving in late 2018. The F-35A will replace the ageing F/A-18A/B Hornet with a fifth-generation networked fighter aircraft.