Defence Minister Senator David Johnston has flagged the acquisition of further Airbus KC-30 tanker-transports and Boeing C-17 airlifters for the RAAF.
Speaking to News Limited’s Ian McPhederan last week, Minister Johnston suggested the next Defence White Paper, due for release next year, will propose the acquisition of two extra KC-30As and one or two additional C-17s. One of the KC-30s would also feature a VIP interior for international travel by the prime minister.
“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’ ” the Minister was reported as saying during an interview aboard a KC-30 bound for Darwin.
“It [the KC-30] allows us to go anywhere in our region and far and away beyond that.”
The report also quotes the Minister as saying acquiring addional C-17s is a “no-brainer”.
The RAAF currently operates five KC-30A tanker-transports with 33SQN and six C-17s with 36SQN, with both units based at Amberley.
Acquiring additional KC-30As “makes sense”, Australian Aviation contributor Andrew McLaughlin writes in the September issue of the magazine, out late next week. “The KC-30 program is coming good, the boom and pod hardware and software remediation development is wrapping up, a new software load is expected to fix many of the minor idiosyncrasies and work-arounds of the original design, and the aircraft has proved its strategic reach in recent ALS (air logistics support) taskings to the US and Europe, and on long-endurance tanking missions in Australia,” he writes.
Separately, Minister Johnston remarked in Darwin last week that “I am optimistic this aircraft will soon be removed from the Projects of Concern”. (The KC-30 acquisition is being managed under the Defence Material Organisation’s ‘Projects of Concern’ process due to issues with the aircraft’s refuelling boom system, which are close to being rectified.)
As well as Australia, the KC-30 (known outside Australia as the A330 MRTT) has been ordered by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
Australia has a unique, but limited, opportunity to secure additional C-17s, meanwhile. Boeing has commenced assembly of its 269th and last C-17 at its Long Beach, California plant, with production due to wind up next year. However, the company is building 15 “white tail” aircraft without a customer to date. India (which already has 10 on order) is reportedly interested in six of these, and Boeing remains in ongoing discussions with existing C-17 operators and potential new customers regarding the remaining aircraft.