Sixth RAAF KC-30A arrives at Amberley

The sixth RAAF KC-30A on approach to Amberley from Honolulu on the final leg of its ferry flight. (Land Broad)

The sixth Airbus Defence and Space KC-30A MRTT for the RAAF arrived at Amberley, south-east Queensland on September 1.

The former A330-203 airliner saw service with Qantas and Jetstar as VH-EBH and first flew in 2007. It was converted to MRTT configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and arrived at Amberley, where it will enter service with 33 Squadron, wearing its Spanish test registration MRTT039.

The aircraft requires the completion of airworthiness directive (AD) and service bulletin (SB) work, Australian Aviation understands, as well as hardware and software configuration upgrades to bring it up to a common standard with the RAAF’s five existing KC-30As before being accepted into service.

Once the ADs and SBs have been addressed and signed-off on by an Airbus-certified authority the aircraft can be accepted onto the Commonwealth register as A39-006.

The RAAF’s seventh and final MRTT, also a former Qantas A330 – VH-EBI – is currently being modified to MRTT standard at Getafe. Along with its standard air-to-air refuelling capabilities, A39-007 will also feature a “government transport” VIP interior. It is due for delivery in late 2019.

The government approved Project AIR 7403 Phase 3 for the acquisition of two additional KC-30As in June 2015.


  1. Corey says

    Awesome news and would be nice to see a few more bought and converted. With an increase to the number of aircraft and aircraft which can be refueled in flight we need more tankers so a minimum of 18-24 would do nicely. Would also be nice to have a small ish sleep of 10-12 KC-350-900ULRs.

  2. Charlie says

    Maybe not 10 but another 5 to bring it up to “Proper Squadron strength” and the VIP fleet should be separate.

  3. Derrick says

    Guys, settle down with the 10 to 20 airframes. The DWP has stated the there will be a provision for another 2 more airframes bringing the total to 9. If we were to get another 10 more aircraft, how will we service them, how will we crew them, what other projects will have to dropped to fund the extra aircraft???

    As for the C17, the production line has closed and the last white tail was sold to India.

  4. john slapp says

    Well derrick is speaking sense when it comes to the amount of airfames are needed. but on the other hand corey thinks that we need more i dont know were he gets the numbers from but were will the money come from and who will fly them australia only has a small defence force so why would we need 10 to 20 airframes i think 7 is the right amount with 1 in deep maintenance and 1 in the middle east it we still have a good amount of airfames left to use.

  5. Harry says

    24! What the hell, thats ridiculous, even 18 is ridiculous. I can see an argument for 12 at most, 9 at best and 7 as we can afford the,

  6. Corey says

    Look I’m just saying and agreeing with a few people that a larger fleet would be nice say 12 aircraft. How ever it would be nice to see even a larger fleet say 18 aircraft with some in a freighter version there for allowing pelleted freight to be transported when it doesn’t require C-130 or C-17s. I do agree we should try and purchase USAF C-17s at least another 4 for a total of 12 but again 18-24 would be awesome. We do have the money just government need to pull their heads out of the sand and give the ADF the 2% GDP budget NOW and laws put in place to keep it at a minimum 2% GDP. I also stated to possibly look into a KC-350-900ULR because it’s the ONLY aircraft on the market which has same to greater fuel and capacity to the KC-10. One other question I will throw out there is why hasn’t the air force bought commercial freighters because a 747-400F would have been great beck when we where at war in the middle east.

  7. Fabian says

    John slap
    Yes the defence force may be small and it doesn’t need 10+ kc-30a but we need to constantly expand. Having a look at future conflicts it’s not going to be proxy wars any more. We need to expand by a whole lot. A squadron of tankers is NEEDED to fuel 3+ squadrons of fighters plus cargo and our wedgtail aircraft. And that’s just our aircraft there is also coalition aircraft in a future war. Then their is maintenance and other things that keep the tankers from getting off the gound. The whole defence force needs to expand for future conflicts.

  8. Mick181 says

    It’s all about Raise,Train,Sustain.
    You have to buy the Aircraft, find the people to man the extra squadron from Pilots to Cooks, build new base facilities, new housing
    You have to train the personal, not just the air crew but everyone else from Clerks to supply personal.
    You have to sustain the capability from fuel to spare parts, personal have to be paid, provided with all Medical expenses, uniforms.
    It’s very rare that the RAAF raise a whole new squadron from scratch, the only one i can think of in the last 30 years is 2 sqn with the Wedgies.
    It costs a lot of money and buying the Aircraft is only a fraction of that cost.

  9. john slapp says


    If you read my thing on it right i was not saying we need more i was just saying where dose corey come up with the the numbers of planes we need and i said that 7 airfames would be enought corey thinks money grows on trees the govement has to spend money on other things too just not defence were not like america but i do like your thinking Fabian

  10. says

    Mick181, totally agree mate. There are so many factors to consider in when you buy. It’s all very easy to say we should have 20 or 24, when raise, train, and sustain. Are you still drinking that red cordial again Corey?

  11. Ray E says

    Don’t forget that on operations we are part of a coalition. There are plenty of American tankers we can plug and play with.

  12. Philip says

    With Singapore also selecting and purchasing 6 KC-30As, that should give greater confidence to any expeditionary operations north of Australia as well as commonality in the region between strong allies.

    Perhaps Singapore might look at posting 2 of them down in New Zealand to support in-flight refuelling as part of their future F15 training squadron as well …

  13. says

    Philip, I’m sure they have already thought of that. Like you said, they have chosen the same as us so that benefits everybody. Cheers.

  14. John N says

    Apart from the six A330 MRTT’s being acquired by Singapore (that Philip mentioned), lets not forget that South Korea is acquiring four A330 MRTT’s too.

    Assuming the RAAF does eventually receive the two additional KC-30A’s, that will take the Airbus KC-30A/A330 MRTT fleet to 19 airframes in our region.

    And lets not also forget that Japan currently has four KC-767 tankers and will be acquiring three KC-46A’s, and of course there are USAF KC-135’s, KC-10’s and eventually KC-46A’s that are or will be based in our part of the world too.

    No shortage of tanker capacity in our region for future coalition operations.


    John N

  15. John N says


    You said: “One other question I will throw out there is why hasn’t the air force bought commercial freighters because a 747-400F would have been great beck when we where at war in the middle east.”

    Why would the RAAF need to invest in 747 freighters? Why?

    There is plenty of lift capacity amongst all our coalition partners, aircraft such as C-5, C-17, A400 or C-130.

    If and I say ‘if’ there was ever a short term need to move a large amount of cargo (or personnel) to a safe base (a hub) near a conflict zone the simple answer would be to ‘lease’ that capability for as long or short as required, there is no need to invest in a capability that would rarely, if ever, be required.

    Maybe you can explain to me why you think it’s necessary for the RAAF to acquire commercial transport airframes??


    John N

  16. Mick181 says

    One issue that is going to come up in the future is that the USAF is only buying just over 100 KC-46. The 100s of KC-135s are ancient and the KC-10s are getting long in the Tooth as well, so eventually we are going to see a serious reduction in Tanker Numbers. While the KC-46s are far superior, especially to the 135s they can only be in one place at a time.
    Quantity has a quality all of it’s own.

  17. Jasonp says

    Mick – the USAF is buying 179 KC-46s under KC-X. Next will come KC-Y which will replace the rest of the tanker fleet including the KC-10s with ~300 new aircraft.

  18. Craigy says

    @John N et al.

    Re the commercial freighter fir the RAAF. As John said, aircraft can be leased for short periods as required. For example, the Antonov 124 is used when heavy lift has been required and for movement of personnel to the middle east and back, there is an A340 that has been wet leased for a number of years now.

  19. Darren says

    Actually a fleet of A330’s with main deck freight could be useful. It could save hours on the airframe assets that are difficult to replace – C-17’s. And yes i get this is a now and then requirement, but I am thinking regional what if’s. Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and potentially others could pool the fleet, pay for hours as needed, or commit to an annual percentage. It could be commercial turn key, or dry leased. Intergrating crews, support etc. It could prove cost effective for all. It offers an option to replace RNZAF 757’s. Short of war, disater relief, or everyone attending the same exercise (where everyone will want the aircraft) it could work. Outside of a NATO frame work soverentiy is an issue. But it could be solved and while unlikely is to me an interesting idea. Anyway that’s my thoughts.

  20. Corey says

    We’ve fitting out the 7th KC-30A with a VIP interior. A couple of Freighter KC-30s would be used more and still provide the tanking capability as the current KC-30s so it would be a smart idea for the ADF and RAAF for aircraft 8 & 9 to be converted freighters. Yes, we have tactical cargo aircraft but there is a need for standard freight capability while retaining tanker capability.

  21. Philip says

    Darren – for the reasons noted above in John N’s response to Corey, I also don’t think creating a multi-governmental shared lift facility is required (imagine the bureaucracy on maintaining and operating the fleet as well). If push came to shove, and all military assets were deployed or unavailable (however unlikely that would be) I believe each Govt (AU, NZ & SG) has direct arrangements with their national carrier to get access to freighters from their respective fleets.

    Reading up on the NZAF 757, why do you believe they need to be replaced? The 2 planes seem to be entirely suitable for the scale of the NZ armed services requirements for troop and/or freight movement as well as ‘AIr Force 2’ mode for VIPs – plus they can land on short strips like the NZ Scott base in Antartica. Seems a great fit and a unique offering.

  22. John N says

    To be honest I don’t get this ‘big’ focus on extra lift capability in the various comments made here.

    Yes of course ‘lift’ is important, but we have a reasonably significant lift capability, be it the RAAF’s or our coalition partners too, or leased commercial capability if and when required.

    To me the main, or primary, role of the KC-30A fleet is AAR, simple as that, it’s the primary focus, the fact that these airframes also have a useful cargo and personnel capability is secondary to the primary role.

    A couple of the comments are focusing on the KC-30A fleet having a ‘main deck’ cargo capability, at the time the aircraft was selected, from memory there wasn’t an A330 variant with a cargo door in operation.

    As I understand it, the French order will have a couple of MRTT’s with a cargo door, but that is not until the end of their production run, and who knows, maybe airframe 8 & 9 for the RAAF might end up with that extra multi role capability, but if they don’t, does it matter? Isn’t the ‘main game’ still a focus on AAR? Personally I think so.

    And as far as the RAAF’s 7th KC-30A having a VIP section, so what? It’s not going to be ‘Air Force One’, it’s role is not just VIP focus, that is a secondary role, again it’s primary role will be AAR.

    Anyway, just my opinion of course too.


    John N

  23. Jasonp says

    Corey, the KC-30 can carry more under the floor than the 707 could carry on the main deck, and can still carry 250 pax and 120 tonnes of fuel.

    7-9 KC-30s plus the C-17s is about as good as it gets for a defence force the size of Australia.

    Just let it go…