FIRST CONTACT: A KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft (MRTT) extends its boom to connect to another KC-30 MRTT during a flight from RAAF Base Amberley.
FIRST CONTACT: A KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft (MRTT) extends its boom to connect to another KC-30 MRTT during a flight from RAAF Base Amberley. Contributed

Boom milestone for our Air Force

IT HAPPENS at 500kmh seven kilometres in the air with fuel being transferred from one massive aircraft to the other at the rate of 4500 litres per minute but is somehow made to look routine.

The first air refuelling boom contact has been made by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) crew of the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

During a recent three-hour flight from RAAF Base Amberley, the crew deployed the 17-metre long Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) which is mounted beneath the tail of the fuselage.

Using fly-by-wire controls, the crew made 14 successful contacts between the ARBS and a refuelling receptacle of another KC-30A, although no fuel was transferred.

Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Turnbull, Air Commander Australia, said air-to-air refuelling required both KC-30As to fly in close formation at more than 500 kilometres per hour, and an altitude of 7000 metres.

"More training flights are being flown to ensure aircrew are experienced with the operation of the ARBS," Air Vice-Marshal Turnbull said.

"The KC-30A has already been cleared to refuel other aircraft in-flight with its hose-and-drogue refuelling pods, which are mounted beneath the wings.

"The refuelling pods have been used to great effect in Operation OKRA by refuelling RAAF Hornets and Super Hornets over Iraq, as well as on Coalition strike aircraft."

The ARBS can offload fuel at 4500 litres per minute, and is also compatible with refuelling the C-17A Globemaster.

In future, the ARBS will also refuel the F-35A Lightning and P-8A Poseidon.

"Air refuelling aircraft, like the KC-30A, are always in high demand as they are true force multipliers," Air Vice-Marshal Turnbull said.

"This demand will increase further in the early part of the next decade, as Australia alone will have approximately 100 aircraft that will require use of the ARBS.

"The introduction of boom refuelling to the KC-30A significantly increases the utility of a cornerstone capability for Defence.'

The RAAF operates five KC-30As and each can carry more than 100 tonnes of fuel, allowing it to fly out to a range of 1800 kilometres from its home base, remain for four hours and offload 50 tonnes of fuel.



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