The first of five Airbus Military KC-30A MRTTs is due to be handed over to the RAAF in a ceremony in Madrid on December 22.
The aircraft, believed to be A39-003, the third MRTT built and the second to be converted by Qantas Defence Services at Brisbane Airport, is due to be flown to Australia sometime in the new year, before the type’s airworthiness boards are held in March. Until that time, the aircraft reamins considered ‘experimental’ by the RAAF, and RAAF personnel cannot operate or work on the KC-30 without oversight by Airbus flight test crews.
The first MRTT, A39-001, is due to have its flight test instrumentation removed and undergo a service period before it is delivered, while A39-002 will remain in Madrid to support ongoing flight testing before it is delivered in mid 2011.
Project Air 5402 is now more than two years late and remains on the government’s Projects of Concern list. A Defence spokesman told Australian Aviation that the delays have been due to Airbus underestimating the amount of work required to bring the aircraft to a mature state. “Delays on the project are primarily due to increased developmental, certification and qualification testing required as a result of Airbus Military’s underestimation of the overall scope and complexity of work on this first of type developmental program.”
“Although the A330 MRTT received a Technical Certificate from the Spanish military airworthiness agency, Instituto Nacional de Technica Aeroespacial (INTA), on 5 October 2010, additional work is required to ensure that the aircraft comply with Australian contractual requirements. To accept the first aircraft, the contract also requires delivery of support systems such as publications, training, spares and test equipment necessary for RAAF to fly and maintain the aircraft.”
The planned initial operating capability (IOC) with Amberley based 33SQN is currently scheduled for the “second half of 2011”, while full operating capability (FOC), the point at which all five aircraft have been delivered, the logistics and support systems are in place, and the squadron is at full strength, is expected to “follow by the end of 2012.”