RAAF takes delivery of final KC-30

The fifth and final KC-30A for the RAAF has been delivered. (Airbus Military)

Airbus Military has delivered the fifth and final A330 MRTT to the RAAF.

The aircraft, designated by the RAAF as the KC-30A, will enter service with 33SQN at Amberley.  The tanker transport aircraft, a derivative of the successful A330, incorporates two underwing refuelling pods, a rear-fuselage refuelling boom and an integrated universal receptacle enabling it to be refuelled by other aircraft.

RAAF Commander Air Lift Group Air Commodore Gary Martin said: “We are very pleased with the in-service testing of the KC-30A and we expect to declare IOC before the end of the year. RAAF F/A-18A and B aircraft now conducting routine refuelling missions with the KC-30A, and the pilots are happy with the KC-30A tanking experience.”


  1. John N says

    So near and yet, still so far!

    Yes I’m sure once all the problems are sorted out they will be a great aircraft in their MRTT role.

    But here we are today, nearly three years late, we may have technically “accepted” all five into service, but the reality is a bit different.

    #1, the aircraft that lost its boom, is still in Spain undergoing trials with the modifications to the boom system. (As a side note, for those not aware, another KC30A under testing for the United Arab Emirates lost a boom too during pre delivery testing in early October).

    #’s 2, 3, 4 at Amberley have been cleared for the transport duties and undergoing certification for the Hose & Drogue refuelling systems, I understand that one of those three aircraft is currently undergoing a deep maintenance period.

    #5, the aircraft mentioned in the article, I believe is still in Spain, and it was reported a number of weeks ago in the Air Force Newspaper, that it may stay in Spain a bit longer to assist in boom testing.

    So there we have it, two of the five actually operating here in a limited capacity!! Yes IOC, with its restricted capability, is not far away, but we will just have to wait and see when FOC is achieved where all aircraft are upgraded and operating without restrictions.

    Interestingly when we get to the early 2020’s nearly all of the aircraft in RAAF service, that are able to be air refuelled, will require the boom system, eg, C17A’s, E7A’s, P8A’s, F35A’s and of course the KC30A’s too.

    Only the Growlers and Super Hornets (depending on how long the Super’s continue in service) will use the Hose & Drogue system, but of course that capability can also be used by a number of our coalition partners.

    One more point, yes the 5 KC30A’s are a quantum leap in capability compared to the old 707 tankers, but 5 is still not much more than a “training” capability, to be truly effective the RAAF could do with another 3-5 airframes for the AAR role.



  2. William says

    More of just about every aircraft in the ADF inventory would be good, except for the MRH90 of course.

  3. Allan says

    Got to agree with John there. 5 aircraft really aren`t much more than a token effort another 3-5 would prove the government is committed to the defence realm.

    Congratulations Airlift Group on getting them into service your patience is to be commended.

  4. Dee says

    Not likely to happen Allan, I have a budget to bring to surplus no matter who want’s to invade us.


  5. PT says

    @ John N

    All valid points, but on the other side of the argument . . .

    Regarding late to service: What would you have preferred? Refurbished ex-USAF KC-135/KC-10 tankers? That would have been quick to service, but longevity/economics/supportability might have been an issue.
    The KC-767 wasn’t a quick option either, with the Italians having ordered theirs at the same time and received them only last year after a troubled development, despite using the mature 767 airframe and having much of the development previously done on the Japanese KC-767 program.

    Regarding the lack of current boom capability: Only the Wedgetails, the C-17s and the KC-30s themselves can currently make use of the booms for refuelling, and each of them have long legs already. Boom use is useful, but hardly critical at the moment. The booms will be ready for the F-35 when they arrive, which leads to the next point . . .

    Regarding tanker numbers: True, but . . . you are forgetting WHY they were ordered to begin with. They were supposed to give the Hornets the strike range to cover the retirement of the F-111s, along with the provision of stand-off weapons for the Hornets (JASSM). The tankers are for supporting strike packages, not the entire Air Force, for which 5 is adequate.
    In addition to which, the KC-30 is a bigger (and heavier) aircraft that has a larger fuel offload capability than the KC-767, and a significantly larger fuel offload capability than the B707/KC-135. They are 2/3 to almost 3/4 of a KC-10.

    In an ideal world, another 3-5 would be great, but at the expense of other capability?

    @ Dee

    Do we still have to be worried about the “yellow peril” up north? The hoards descending upon the north like barbarians? Haven’t we moved beyond such a narrow and, quite frankly, ignorant view of Australia’s defence requirements?
    I can only think you are referring to China (who else?), and China is not going to invade Australia. Not as long as Australia is willing to SELL anything they require. Is that likely to stop any time soon? Far more likely Australia will act as part of a coalition.

  6. Raymond says

    Well Swanny, if you and your government hadn’t wasted so much money on ridiculous ‘economic stimulation’ schemes such as insulation and school halls, then you wouldn’t be in such a pickle now and need to cut money from what needs funding the most! The first priority for any government is the defence of the nation and lowering defence expenditure to the lowest as a percentage of GDP since 1938 is a disgrace. We just don’t learn – and guess what started one year later?

    Nice to see another KC-30A milestone; a great capability, even if the quantity is a little low and some issues still to be resolved. There really should be 8 airframes lined up at 33SQN.

  7. John N says

    Hey Swanny, or should I say “World’s Greatest Treasurer?”,

    Can you explain to me, and the others here too, why you knocked back the offer of a 6th KC30A, apparently on the cheap, by Airbus Military earlier this year?

    With you being a Queenslander and all, the opportunity to keep the QDS conversion facility in Brisbane going longer, keeping 200 people employed, etc, would have been a win win, don’t you think?

    Maybe you were too busy slicing and dicing the Budget, or you were updating your resume for next year when you loose your job too?

    Just another thought, maybe when we pull out of Afganistan you could get a job there and use your skills as the World’s Greatest Treasurer on the Afgan people.

    I reckon you would look good in a Kevlar helmet and flak jacket!!



  8. Anon says

    John – If you read AA regularly you’d know the sixth KC-30 offer came with ‘conditions’, i.e. that we had to order the C295 as well. That was never going to happen. Also Airbus reportedly offered the sixth aircraft without consulting QDS who actually does the conversion work…

    It was never taken seriously by the ADF let alone federal cabinet, especially considering the issues the KC-30 has had and continues to have.

  9. John N says

    Sam, are you sure? It’s gotta be the real Swanny!

    Who else would say “I have a budget to bring to surplus no matter who want’s to invade us”? Certainly sounds like a statement that would only come out of his mouth. I’m sure he would be a big fan of Australian Aviation Magazine too!

    I can see him now in a Cabinet meeting, reading AA on his iPad, deciding which project to put the knife to for the next budget!!

  10. John N says

    Hi Anon,

    Actually I think it was slightly different to what you have suggested, from memory, the offer of the 6th came without “strings” attached, Airbus had the “spare” green airframe that was originally built for the US KC-X program and they were offering it to us first, before offing it to others, and they wanted a decision by mid year.

    The conditions you mentioned regarding the CN295, was yes, if we selected the CN295, Airbus Military would offer further KC30A conversion work for QDS if they received orders from other nations that the KC30A was/is being offered to.

    And yes, as you point out, there was no response from Government to Airbus Military.

    Yes I could be wrong, (I have been before!), but I’m pretty certain that it was as I’ve said.



  11. William says

    @ AJSW, everything. It’s a total load of Euro-trash. It can’t;and on anything less than a seal pad, the ramp is not useable and the seats can’t support the weight of a loaded soldier

  12. PT says

    @ John N

    Are you writing to an imaginary “Swanny” or are you accusing me of being “Swanny” just because I disagree with three of your arguments? I notice that you chose not to argue the points I made, so you were left with your ad hominem attack. Don’t bother replying as I will not see it.

  13. John N says


    I have no idea of who you are or what you are going on about, mate, take a chill pill!!

    Who are you? This is the first entry here by PT, are you Anon?

    In regard to “Swanny”, one of our fellow contributors made a joke about Swanny, and a few of us have played along with it, making a bit of fun of it, again, don’t know why you are getting wound up about reference to “Swanny”, why?

    If you are Anon, I replied to the points that Anon made.

    As for your “don’t bother replying as I will not see it”, your choice.


  14. Anon says

    …and yet you still replied anyway.

    Anon is my actual name, no relation to PT! Surname is Moose, middle initial is ‘E’.

    And what I suggested re the sixth aircraft/C295 package deal isn’t “slightly different”, it’s exactly how it went down John.


  15. John N says

    Dear Anon E Moose (very funny, lol!),

    Ok, let’s recap the points we have both been making, and disagree on:

    You said the 6th MRTT was “tied” to the purchase of the C295, correct?

    I said that I believed it was different, that the 6th MRTT came without conditions, but the offer of “further” MRTT conversion work was tied to the C295, correct?

    See the link below, Australian Aviation, 14 March 2012:


    Below are a number of relevant paragraphs from the article:

    “Speaking to media in Sydney today, Airbus Military program manager Valentin Merino said that, while it was offering the BFA and the sixth tanker as two separate proposals, Airbus Military would guarantee it would place conversion work for possible future Indian, Singaporean and other international MRTT buys in Australia only if the RAAF bought a sixth KC-30A MRTT and the C295 to replace the Caribou.”

    “When asked by Australian Aviation if a sixth MRTT was ordered but the C295 was unsuccessful whether the future MRTT work guarantee would still be placed at Brisbane’s ‘centre for excellence’, EADS Australia CEO Fabrice Rochereau indicated Airbus would be “less open” to the prospect of more conversions being done in Australia, saying it is “a package deal,” adding that, “we want to sustain our footprint here…the tanker conversion would be part of the Australian industry capability of the C295.” ”

    “Merino added that, “The sixth tanker runs in isolation, the C295 runs in isolation. But if both [are taken up], we are saying we can maintain the final assembly line for tankers not only for Australia but for export.” ”

    As you can see, the AA article is about “Future Tanker Conversion” work, both Merino and Rochereau state that the “Sixth MRTT” and the “BFA/C295” are two separate proposals and run in isolation of each other.

    Also If you look at this link below, from “Defense News”:


    You will see these two paragraphs:

    “Airbus Military was hopeful of winning an order for at least six aircraft for the Indian Air Force, but the Indian government’s requirement for early delivery means it may not be possible to set up an in-country conversion line in time.”

    “With Airbus’ other conversion facilities also fully booked in the near-term, Urena said the sixth aircraft for Australia would provide continuity for the Brisbane facility until it was able to begin work on some of the Indian aircraft, should Airbus Military win the competition.”

    It’s clear, to me at least, Airbus Military was trying to achieve a number of different goals out of those separate proposals.

    On the one hand, the offer of a 6th MRTT to be converted in Brisbane would keep the line open another year to assist it in “winning” International orders, especially India which wanted, at that time, early delivery.

    On the other hand, if we ordered the C295, the guarantee of further MRTT conversion work.



  16. Dane says

    The government needs to realise operating small fleets of any type will cost more in the long run than having a medium fleet. 6-8 would be ideal for Australia as that way you could have enough available at any time, 1 in deep maintenance, 1-2 in light maintenance, 2 deployed overseas in the troop ferrying role and 3 here in Australia for training/exercise support.

  17. John N says


    What you have said is 100% correct.

    As I noted at the beginning of this post, of the three that are actually here, one of those is in maintenance, leaving two available.

    The Government saw the light with the C17A’s, if the 5th and 6th hadn’t been ordered we would have been down to a fleet of 3 airframes for a period of two years as the original 4 went back one after the other to the US for their 6mths heavy maintenance periods, we won’t actually see all 6 available till at least late 2013 when the last one finishes its heavy maintenance.

    From memory, when the 5 KC30A’s were ordered there was also an option for another three, but the option lapsed. With the cuts to the Defence budget I can’t see more ordered anytime soon.

    Maybe in the years ahead, when the 2 737BBJ’s of the VIP fleet come up for replacement, the RAAF could mount an argument that they be replace by more KC30A’s.

    Until then, 5 are still not much more than a training capability.


  18. Raymond says

    John – interesting your mention of the VIP fleet… it was reported in the last few days that the RAAF is now considering their replacement. I believe the current contract ends in 2014 and two Falcon 900’s were flown here by Dassault for inspection. The report used language that this was in view of ‘augmenting’ the fleet, so not sure whether it’s in mind to actually expand the fleet or not…

  19. John N says

    Hi Raymond,

    The current VIP fleet, three Challenger 604 aircraft and the two 737 BBJ have been in service for about 10 years now, and yes I think the lease on them runs out in the next 2-3 years.

    Yes I’m sure the smaller Challenger will no doubt be replaced by similar business jets, probably something like the Falcon 900’s that you mentioned.

    The two larger Boeing BBJ’s on the other hand have been criticised for their lack of passenger carring capacity on longer overseas trips, I seem to recall a number of years back, in the early days of the KC30A program that there was a suggestion that the Goverment was looking into using the KC30A’s for VIP work because of the limitations of the BBJ’s.

    If we go back in time the 707’s were used for AAR, transport and VIP service too.

    As I was suggesting about, it might be worth looking at eventually replaceing the BBJ’s with more KC30A’s, after all, they are all operated by Air Lift Group.

  20. Dane says

    One solution may be to order two more KC-30’s fitted out for VIP work and have them plumbed and fitted for AAR should we decide we need more tankers in the future

  21. John N says

    Hi Dane,

    The point you make about “fitted for, but not with” is a good idea and a valid option.

    But it comes down to, if the Government did decide to go down that path and order a couple more, what is the actual initial saving? Is it as little as 10% or 15% of the project cost, or is it much higher figure? I suspect it would be on the lower side.

    The problem might be, if at a later date, they decide to complete the conversion and fit the pods and boom, are they still in production? if not, what is the cost of restarting production, etc. It may cost a lot more in the long run.

    I’m sure that Airbus, RAAF and other the operators of the KC30A’s would keep a stock of those items in their spares inventory anyway (especially the boom which has had two breakages to date!), like I said Dane, good idea, but are there potentially bigger costs factors if done later than sooner?

    As far as a VIP fitout is concerned, these aircraft are basically converted commercial A330-200’s fitted with an all economy class, it would just be a matter of removing X number of economy seats, insert a partition and add the various first and second class seating, etc, between the VIP section and say for example, the economy section with the traveling media, this configuration could then be moved from aircraft to aircraft, allows for flexibility across the entire fleet.

    The only thing missing from these aircraft is a main deck cargo door (as the various US KC-XX aircraft have), Airbus has a dedicated A330 cargo version, and is also reported to have or is developing a main deck cargo door conversion for the standard passenger version.

    If some where in the future the Government did order more, I think the inclusion of a main deck cargo door would give the aircraft even greater flexibility.



  22. Dane says


    Hopefully Defence in its wisdom would buy spare pods and booms under a “what if” scenario. From memory, a short while after we signed the contract for the tankers, Airbus announced its freighter version of the A330, and Defence said it would not look into it in the near future as we had sufficient lift capability with the C-130’s and C-17s in service. This is a bit of shortsightedness by the bean-counters as having an aircraft that can move people and palletised cargo in one hit, means the dedicated cargo lifters can concentrate on the out-sized stuff.

  23. John N says


    Yes I agree with what you said, the announcement of a cargo door came after our order of the aircraft, and yes it would have meant sending newly delivered airframes back for further conversion work, that would have meant more delays.

    What I’m suggesting is that “if” the Government does order more aircraft, say for example, No’s 6-?, we have the cargo door fitted during the conversion period, that way there is no disruption to the existing fleet.

    And if the cargo conversion does proved to be successful and valuable, then maybe you then cycle the original airframes through that process when enough are already in the fleet.

    But its probably not going to happen, availability of Defence $’s, etc.

    Pitty you and I arn’t in charge!!