The trials, including wet and dry hook ups, took place between KC-30A A39-003 and ARDU’s resident F/A-18B A21-101 test aircraft, and saw the start of trials which are expected to lead up to a partial clearance for operational hose and drogue contacts from December.
The refuelling trials are expected to continue throughout 2012 as additional KC-30A crews are trained, and the refuelling flight envelope is expanded and additional RAAF types such as the F/A-18F Super Hornet are cleared to take fuel from the MRTT. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is currently slated for late 2012.
The first MRTT entered service with 33SQN earlier this year following a two year delay in the aircraft’s development. Since then, two more aircraft have been delivered, and a fourth – the first MRTT built which has just completed an extensive refurbishment at Airbus and Iberia in Spain – is expected in the coming weeks. The fifth and last KC-30A is currently being converted from its standard A330-200 configuration into an MRTT at Qantas Defence Services’ (QDS) facility at Brisbane Airport, and is expected to be delivered in mid 2012.
A Youtube clip of the trials can be viewed here.