A KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft extends its boom to connect to another KC-30.
A KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft extends its boom to connect to another KC-30. Depatrment of Defence

Missions create formation flight practice

BEING busy over Mosul supporting Iraqi Security Forces doesn't take away opportunities for "on-the-job training".

Multi-tanker formation flying is an important part of operations and four Number 75 Squadron F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, a Number 33 Squadron KC-30A Multi-Role Refuelling Tanker and a United States KC-10 Air to Air Refuelling tanker recently undertook the training activity en-route to tasks required by Iraqi Security Forces, which saw RAAF Hornets attack Daesh positions.

The six planes departed in formation until over the Mosul area, where the RAAF Hornets undertook their tasks for Iraqi Security Forces, and the US tanker moved to its station to refuel its allocated aircraft for the rest of the mission.

"Formation flying allows simultaneous refuel and transfer of large quantities of fuel," said Squadron Leader T, pilot of the RAAF KC-30A.

"If one tanker had a problem another tanker is immediately available reducing significantly the chance of mission failure on critical missions," they said.

With multiple refuels between take-off and landing there are opportunities for formation flying training to take place, which is helpful, because United States Air Force pilots must fly three formation departures every six months.

With crew exchange arrangements in place between the United States Air Force and RAAF, the formation assists in reinforcing the already strong interoperability and co-operation structures built at exercises and now in theatre.

"Together we are developing Tanker Formation Standards and this training exercise is also helping develop and maintain our own expertise in all forms of tanker Air to Air Refuelling operations,"said Squadron Leader T.

"The things learnt from this event will allow Air Force to refine and further develop the standards which will enable similar activities to occur more easily in the future.

"While we may not use these skills on this operation, other than in training, they are skills that are needed.

"For instance, when flying over a land mass as large as Australia, can you imagine if there was a problem with one tanker's refuelling drogue?

"Flying in formation with another tanker makes it immediately available to refuel the accompanying aircraft and mission failure is avoided," he said.



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