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RAAF to acquire two additional KC-30s

written by Gerard Frawley | July 1, 2015

KC-30A Refuel Boom ContactAustralia is to acquire two further Airbus KC-30A tanker-transports, taking the RAAF’s fleet to seven, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has announced.

“The two additional KC-30A aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and provide a substantial increase to the air-to-air refuelling capacity of the RAAF,” Andrews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Defence has signed an update to the existing acquisition contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the two aircraft and associated conversion at a cost of approximately $408 million.”

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The KC-30 (Airbus calls it the A330 MRTT – Multi Role Tanker Transport) is a development of the A330-200 airliner, featuring an ARBS (Advanced Refuelling Boom System) boom mounted beneath the rear fuselage and underwing mounted ‘probe and drogue’ pods. It also has a significant ‘air logistics support’ capability able to carry cargo in its underfloor freight compartments and, in RAAF service, 270 passengers in airliner-style seating.

Although four of the original five aircraft were converted from ‘green’ A330 airframes to their KC-30 configuration by Qantas Defence Services (now Northrop Grumman Australia Integrated Defence Services) at Brisbane Airport, the two new aircraft – secondhand ex Qantas A330-200 airliners – will be converted to tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.

“These aircraft will be based on two previously-owned Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners which will be converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and delivered in 2018,” Airbus Defence and Space said in a statement.

“The RAAF decided to use these particular aircraft as they are extremely close to the same basic specification as the KC-30As already in service.”

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The two ex Qantas airframes are being acquired are VH-EBH (msn 892) and VH-EBI (msn 898), a Qantas spokesman has confirmed. Both aircraft were built in 2007 (and so are of a similar vintage to the existing RAAF KC-30s) and were leased by owner CIT Aerospace to Qantas. VH-EBH has already been withdrawn from Qantas service, operating its last service for the airline in May, while EBI is expected to be withdrawn by November.

The acquisition of extra KC-30s was first publicly flagged by former Defence Minister Senator David Johnston in a media interview last year.

“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’,” the then Minister was reported as saying.

After a difficult early development that saw the KC-30 acquisition managed under Defence’s ‘Projects of Concern‘ process, the aircraft has rapidly matured in service. Refuelling trials with the once troubled boom are now underway and earlier problems with the hose and drogue pods and support and sustainment issues have been resolved.

A single KC-30 has been deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE supporting RAAF and coalition strike aircraft flying combat missions over Iraq against Islamic State since last October, during which time it has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

The KC-30s are operated by Amberley-based 33 Squadron.

The announcement was the second new A330 MRTT order this week after South Korea announced on Tuesday its selection of the aircraft ahead of Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 Pegasus. South Korea will take delivery of four A330 MRTTs – its first air-to-air refuelling aircraft – by 2019.

45 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    Good to hear, but one hopes that 7 isn’t the final number.

  • Keg

    says:

    Surely this brings into sharp focus the prospect of an A330 based ACJ/ VIP fleet? With 7 A330s in the fleet, an extra 2 for VIP OPS strikes me as a very logical airframe to cater to both the PM and the travelling press gallery.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Was hoping for an additonal three, not two, as the original planned MRTT fleet size, however still great news.

    Wonder if any will be fitted out with VIP interiors?

    Interesting that these two will be second-hand. I had been assuming that this pending order would be new-build like the first five. Just cutting costs?

    A shame that this wasn’t timed a little differently, so that the Brisbane facility could have had the extra conversion work before that wound down, rather than giving Airbus Spain the work.

  • Tony

    says:

    If we are going down this track why don’t we scrap the submarine fleet and acquire another 8 or 12 P8 Aircraft at $4 to $6 Billion and may be another 4 to 6 KC30s to refuel them at say another $1 to $1.5 billion. We would be able to extend our maritime surveillance well beyond the range of 12 Submarines at $58 billion and save heaps of money. Also not have the crewing problems of manning 12 submarines.

  • WishfulThinking

    says:

    2 x ex QF A332s to be delivered 2018. Bit of reading between the lines, connecting dots and wishful thinking may lead one to believe a new type commitment is very close for QF? I believe the first options for the B789s were in 2017, making way for the retirement of some A330s.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Tony, submarines and surveillance aircraft are two vastly different capabilities. We need a mix of both.

    Just for starters, submarines are an unseen deterrent with excellent long-range loitering ability. They can be sent to stealthily loiter in strategic maritime choke-points at long distances from our shores, reconnoitre coastlines and monitor vessels of other navies including their sound signatures, for example.

    Submarines have been identified as critical to Australia’s defence. They won’t be going away.

  • brian

    says:

    Al Dhafra, not. Al Minhad.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Thanks Brian, the article has been corrected.

  • Bob

    says:

    Why buy second hand ? doesn’t make sense ?

    The air frames, are already old

    How much is Tanker up date going to cost the tax payer

    You can never have too many Tanker and Transport aircraft the force multipliers

  • Corey D

    says:

    I’m glad that the RAAF is getting 2 additional KC-30A aircraft although they’re second hand. I do still hope that the DMO, RAAF and the Government can by 5 new additional KC -30A aircraft for a fleet of 12 minimum. I also still hope the RAAF can buy an additional 2-4 C-17s if still available or by second hand ones from the USAF built between 2010-2015 with low hours/cycles along with possible re engine them with GEnx2B engines and new updated avionics.The RAAF should buy at least 2 ACJ330-200 or BBJ777/747-8I equipped with a refuelling boom receiver and counter measures for VIP Transportation with travelling media. I personally like the 747-8I as it can fly from Canberra to NY with 100 passengers non stop and costs approx $15,000 per hour to operate also with Australia being so far away from major countries like the US there is a hell of a lot of water separating us and 4 engines provide extra safety and redundancies.

  • Bill

    says:

    I thought we’d got past the point of buying flogged out ex airlines aircraft for our airforce.

  • Chris G

    says:

    I agree with Bill, Keg and Raymond that the RAAF needs more KC30As possibly with a mix of VVIP interiors. Given commercial airlines are flying A330s here PT aircrew would suffice, going FT in emergencies. The 33SQN SENGO document shows 32 business, 240 economy, 2 stretchers aft plus the crew rest and RARO station conversion behind the cockpit. Scaling QF cabin layouts show around 100 business class lie flat seats are possible in an A330-200 cabin without changing the galleys or toilets for VVIP use.
    100 VVIPs @ 150kg = 15tonne leaves 96tonne fuel so 11,000-11,500km unrefuelled range depending on diversion allowance cruising at 860kmhr The 13-14 hr flight time necessitates lie flat bed seats. The GG or PM could take 2 dozen staff + 2 dozen security + 4 dozen media and 2 crews.The main problem with the A330 is it requires twice the runway 2.7km.
    280 crew + PAX @ 125kg = 35tonne leaves 76tonne fuel so 8,500-9,000km unrefuelled range as above. A 10hr or so flight time for troops without lie flat bed seats is acceptable especially if trailing fighters 5hrs or less from the East to West or NW bare bases.
    Bob the A$ at 77 cents to the US$ and 69€ means the ADF and RAAF have too adjust their thinking. 2 extra C17A ERs and 10 C27Js have too be paid for. Ex QF aircraft mean that the 2 airframes can be bought with A$, not affecting our international currency reserves.
    The cost of the works at Amberley building the bund to stop the Brisbane river flooding again, the 2nd C17/KC30 sized hangar and apron for 8 C17A ERs, 7 KC30As and 10 C27Js as the figures now stand surely must mean a 4km N S runway at Richmond given the apron and other facilities already their, should be reconsidered. Otherwise Richmond might go the way of nearby Nirimba in the 2030s as the C130J30s useful life expires.

  • Gary

    says:

    Bob / Bill,

    Whilst the airframes may not be new and have a number of airline cycles on them, the age should not be an issue given the airframe / engine combo is close to our existing KC30As. In addition, airframe cycles in military operation are nowhere near as heavy as airline operations therefore, age / cycles on the existing two ex QF birds will not be an issue. In addition, purchasing them from QF in $A is much more costs effective than a direct purchase from Europe.

    Corey,

    Calm down on the C17s. Yes it would be preferable to have 10 or more; however, with Qatar gazumping us with their order for 4, that ship has well and truly sailed. I highly doubt the USAF would give up any late model C17s from their fleet given the current workload.

  • Andrew Cran

    says:

    So, we’re paying 400 million for old, high hour aircraft, when we could buy 2 new ones from Airbus for an extra 40 million. Why are we paying 90% of the new price for old clunkers?

  • Adam W

    says:

    Why couldn’t QF get rid of 2 ex JQ birds instead? Hate those iPads they use on them.

  • Raymond

    says:

    RAAF Amberley is going to be one super-sized, busy base, with an additional 12 Growlers, 2 C-17’s, 2 KC-30’s and 10 C-27J’s coming!

  • John N

    says:

    Agree with Gary 100%, no problem or stress over using relatively young used A330’s, especially these two. Of the five existing KC-30A’s, these two ex QF birds are younger than the first airframe and a bit older than the last four airframes, so from a maintenance and ongoing management of the aircraft across the whole fleet, it seems like a perfect solution to me.

    For those that might remember Airbus did make an unsolicited offer a couple of years ago (March 2012) with a ‘green’ airframe (MSN871) that was part of the failed USAF bid, it is fact a bit older than these two ex QF airframes (MSN892 and MSN898), (I wonder what actually happened to that particular airframe? AA, do you guys have any info??), the offer a couple of years ago was for approx. A$200m (which at the time with the ‘high’ dollar, was approx. US$212m).

    Roll forward to today and the Aussie dollar has slipped quiet a bit against the US Dollar and the Euro, this deal announced today for A$408m, is actually US$314.89m (or around US$157.5m per airframe) or around 282.34m Euro (or 141.17m Euro per airframe). Looks like a pretty good deal to me when it was reported that the deal for the original five airframes was reportedly around A$1.5B, or A$300m per airframe.

    Let’s take that cost one step further, the ‘list’ price of a ‘new’ A330-200 on the Airbus website is US$229m, of course no one pays ‘list’ price, but still, the deal looks like we are paying most of the money for the MRTT ‘conversion’ process and virtually next to nothing for the airframes, a pretty good deal in my book!!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Bill

    says:

    Gary, yes they are not old airframes by any means, but they will have been built to a different specification to the new KC-30’s. Engines are not the only things that are optionable. Also, the aircraft that are expected to be taken aren’t owned by Qantas, and won’t be bought by Australian dollars because the lessor is an American company.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Firstly the article contradicts itself by saying the aircraft were owned by Qantas and then says they were leased from CIT Aerospace. So which is it?

    Next the JQ ordered aircraft are actually lower time compared to those ordered and operated by Qantas domestically before being transferred to Jetstar. And I don’t think the Ipads would be going with them!!!

    And finally, the 400 million is for the purchase of the aircraft and conversion. So the supposed saving of 40 million will be much higher than that. Also describing these aircraft as old clunkers is a nonsense as they are only 7-8 years old

  • Jason

    says:

    Another 2 aircraft which in effect with near double the realistic amount of aircraft available on the line each day. No doubting this is a great capability however married with the recently announced increase in C-17A fleet, lets hope government now also commits to the workforce to support these aircraft, specifically the commitment to the aircrew operating the aircraft but critically also those who operate the air terminals providing ramp services and re-fuelling.

  • Corey

    says:

    I’d like to argue a valid point here. Why isn’t Australia buying new aircraft since they could be bought for approx $250 million each according to ibtimes which reported France has ordered 12 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for $12 billion presumable in US dollars with current conversion rate be approx $325.75 million each rounding up ($325,747,755.00) Sauce: http://www.ibtimes.com/airbus-sells-12-a330-mrtt-tankers-france-after-14-billion-deal-delta-1727799 viewed on 1/07/2015 at 23:14hrs. Yes buying new might cost more but would it be more beneficial in the long run? Id the RAAF ordered 12 new aircraft like France today it would cost A$15.65 billion rounded up (A$15,644,352,360.00). Also the aircraft ordered by France are combi /convertable aircraft meaning they will feature the landing gear, cargo door and floor while also able to have seats fitted for passenger transport. Yes Australia doen’t have much money to spend but more spending needs to be spent of defence because 100 F-35s, 8 P-8s, 24 super hornets, 12 EA-18G growlers along with minimal naval and army assets will protect Australia in the future!

  • Matthew

    says:

    Great to see an increase in RAAF capability!

  • MikeofPerth

    says:

    Corey believe it or not the ADF is more than capable of protecting Australia from a conventional attack. This is largely because of our existing and future capabilities, the fact that none of our potential adversaries have the power projection capabilities to project a level of force we can’t defeat and the intelligence we share with close allies such as the US.

    The Indonesians buying a few new Russian fighters that can do fancy tricks at air shows or the Chinese developing a stealth fighter that belches black smoke out of the engines hardly constitutes an increased level of threat to our nation. This situation is likely to continue for at least the next 20 years, provided Defence procurement proceeds as planned. If the threat level increases closer to that time then we can buy more assets then.

    We must be careful not to increase our defence capabilities too much otherwise we might start an arms race in the region, which will just cause any extra investment to be wasted. I have read many times in the past about how the decision to not fit the old RAAF 707 tankers with a boom to refuel the F111s, was a political decision to avoid starting such an arms race. Two extra KC-30s might not sound like much but it will provide the RAAF with a 40% increase in tanker capacity over what they already have. This is more than what most air forces around the world have and significantly better than what most of our adversaries have. The PLAAF only have 11 tankers if Wikipedia is an accurate guide and they are one of the largest air forces in the world.

    As for the decision to buy second hand, I haven’t had much time to read up on it but I believe it is a financial decision related to the drop in the AUD against other currencies.

  • adammudhen

    says:

    @Raymond – duly noted! 🙂 I’m happy to be proven wrong in this case, anything that increases the user base of the KC-30 is a good thing (plus I think it’s a better aircraft than the KC-46A in most respects).

    Perhaps a pint is in order to prove there’s no hard feelings lol

  • Chris G

    says:

    Corey, you got the $250M each right but the $12B relates to a sale to Delta Airlines by Airbus.

    The French A330 MRTTs will be turned into Combis at a latter date. Only a Freighter design exists now. Because the A330 sits nose down on the tarmac an external fairing under the nosewheel is required allowing longer nosewheel gear for a level floor. Note the floor will be about 5m above the apron requiring specialist lifting equipment that might not be available at a forward air base.

    The F model has no ceiling stowage, AC ducts or lighting etc. So besides being 5m+ wide at floor level it can only take 2.44m high in a centre row. 6.1m long x 2.44m wide x 2.44m high seems the largest dimension that will fit through the freight door ~5m up. So only B vehicles like the G Wagon will fit. Payload varies between 59-67tonne due to the Max Landing Weight so fuel varies between 52-44tonne limiting range to 6-7hrs without a diversion contingency.

    A Combi will need to retain the overhead baggage lockers, AC ducts, lighting and power for palletised seating. I scaled an Airbus cross section of the cabin, so if the floor height is not raised by the conversion a Max of 1.83m high clearance will exist in the centre. 15cm less underneath the side lockers. This rules out carrying most vehicles. Severely limiting the Combis military utility.

    The RAAF are buying second hand because it represents value for money. Known as bang for buck. I suspect the conversion work is being done in Spain due to the wings not having internal plumbing too, and pylons for the A340 engines where the under wing hose and drogue pods will be mounted. Everything else has been done in Brisbane before. Spain are Airbus partners unlike Australia so have better access to their engineers to work through this issue quicker a first time.

  • Raymond

    says:

    adammudhen – that’s the spirit! No, no hard feelings! 🙂

    Yes, orders for the MRTT are really stacking up now.

  • Roger P

    says:

    reality check people,
    The comments about “”flogged-out ex commercial”” airframes is ridiculous. these are being returned to the lessor (NOT being purchased from QANTAS) as their leases expire this year, and the purchase price includes refurb to ”as new” – no correlation to any new type?? The purchase/conversion process with CIT and Airbus Defence & Space. takes time to complete. Airbus Spain already has a significant backlog of conversions – from memory the QDS conversions took almost a year each. The tooling and jigs were returned to Airbus ages ago, and no-one is going to do a conversion setup here for 2 airframes.
    In short the bottom line is commonality of capability for all 7 aircraft – the new A330-200’s from Airbus are a considerably different configuration including upgraded Max Take-off weight & fuel offload.

  • Gary

    says:

    Roger, excellent response!

  • Jimmy

    says:

    WishfulThinking, yes wishful thinking. A 2018 delivery would be the time it takes to refit them. Qantas announced the return of these two aircraft at the same time as they announced the accelerated 767 replacement.

  • Jimmy

    says:

    Chris G, Qantas does not and has never owned these two aircraft. They are owned by the Irish leasing company CIT. So not sure what your sums are trying to prove.

  • Corey

    says:

    Thanks for the feed back guys it goes along way; plus it’s also good to get other peoples inside for these topics. Roger P if the RAAF did buy new KLC-30As based on the Airbus A330-200 242t MTOW upgrade wouldn’t that provide slightly greater capability with extra fuel off load and or more cargo to be transported? Also to everyone should The RAAF start using commercial cargo aircraft such as a A330F, Boeing 777 or 747-8F to transport cargo that isn’t needed in zone or an unpaved or shortened runway due to a natural disaster? Would the operating costs be less and would it be more efficient to transport types of cargo in Military owned commercial cargo aircraft freeing up the C-17s and C-130s which are tactical type aircraft? Another point I’d like everyone view on is if and when Australia will get the Airbus A400M to replace the C-130s?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Corey…
    The RAAF has in the past chartered commercial freighters to transport passengers and equipment. Back in the 2000’s during the height of our involvement in the Middle East, the ADF did charter a commercial A330 on a regular basis to transport smaller freight items and passengers. Also AN124s and other heavy lift aircraft were used to transport heavier items. I do remember though due to safety concerns with some of those heavy lift aircraft that ADF personnel were restricted from flying on them…? Correct me if I’m wrong on that one. However, I think that was before the RAAF had the C17 and KC30 in play or a least in significant numbers. Why when you have your own capability would you pay to charter other assets. In times when a surge capability is required I’m required I’m sure the ADF would use that same service again. Yes, the C130s and C17 have a tactical capability, but if they are not being used for a tactical mission at the time then they are there to be used. Now that the KC30 is in service, we have pretty much got all the bases covered with regard to transporting heavy/over sized cargo and passengers.
    On your second point, when is the C130 expected to reach ‘Life of Type’…? The ADF like any other force or company would have a planned date for replacement of their assets. These would obviously have efficiency and effectiveness factors built in. If the aircraft is still useful and has life left in it, why rush out replace it if you don’t need to. I’m sure there is a rough date set down in the future when the ADF will begin to plan, evaluate and procure a replacement for the J fleet. Until that time, unless there is a major change of plan or strategy, the ADF will continue to keep an eye on the development and operation of the A400M and any other potential future platforms. At the end of the day it all comes down to $$ and how wisely you spend it. Last time I looked there still weren’t any money trees growing in Canberra unfortunately. That was a book and a half…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Roger P – why not have the additional two KC-30’s to the new, upgraded standard? Commonality would still have been essentially the same as the original five, just better with improved specs, wouldn’t they?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Corey – Air Mobility Group has done extremely well these last few years and capability has been greatly improved. I can’t really see commercial cargo aircraft being added to the inventory as well.

    A400M’s replacing the C-130J’s? Not for a little while yet, if it happens. Don’t rule out that there’s a good chance a newer C-130 will be developed, continuing the long Hercules line in RAAF service.

  • John N

    says:

    I am really surprised by the angst shown by some over the Government’s decision to purchase second hand former QF airframes, obviously there is a cost element to this decision (and I’ll get to that later), but from a pure ‘commonality’ point of view when operating a relatively small fleet, it makes perfect sense to me.

    These two airframes came off the A-330 production line in 2007, the airframe for the first KC-30A was produced in 2006 and the remaining four were produced between 2008 and 2010, roll forward to today, 2015, and if the Government was to have ordered ‘new’ green airframes for MRTT conversion, which would probably mean airframes produced in 2016 or 2017, can you imagine all the subtle (but significant) and not so subtle engineering changes in that time?

    I’ll give you a good example with my car, that model was produced over a four year period and midway through production there was a major revision (not styling) but mechanical, and virtually every major mechanical component is NOT interchangeable, there is a very definite line drawn in the sand, before a certain VIN number its one type of part, after that VIN number it is a different part, doesn’t really matter to me, but the service department at the dealer has to maintain stock of ‘two’ types of those major components in its spare parts inventory, and I’m sure there is ‘premium’ that I am having to pay because of that too.

    Apply that to the KC-30A fleet, if the two extra airframes were new production, there would be a significant amount of engineering changes, how much extra spares holding would the RAAF have to contend with? I think it would be an expensive nightmare for it to contend with too. Of course if the Government had decided to ‘double’ the size of the fleet from 5 to 10, then having two ‘larger’ groups of subtypes would certainly be far more acceptable, but still, there would be additional overheads having to maintain two subtypes within the fleet.

    As to cost, and I mentioned this in an earlier post, these two KC-30A’s are going to cost A$408m or US$314.89m or E282.34m for the pair, that equates to A$204m or US$157.5m or E141.17m per airframe.

    And to repeat, back in 2012 when Airbus offered to modify an existing A330 airframe that it had used in its failed USAF tanker bid, the deal to supply that airframe and convert it to KC-30A configuration was for approximately A$200m, and with the high Aussie dollar at the time equated to US$212m.

    So while we might be paying a few million ( current value Australian) dollars more for each airframe compared to that offer, we are now paying approximately US$54.5m ‘less’ per airframe (approx. $US110m in total) than the deal offered back in 2012 which was to use an existing airframe from the same ‘vintage’ as the two ex QF birds. It’s almost as if we are getting these two airframe for virtually nothing and the vast majority of the expenditure will be the conversion costs.

    All sounds like a pretty good deal to me! (Now if we can only get Airbus to throw in that airframe they offered back in 2012, which is still owned by Airbus today, that will make the deal even sweeter!!).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    Great, John N – yes, the third extra airframe would bring the total to eight, which was the original RAAF requirement.

  • Bill

    says:

    One point that has been somewhat overlooked, I understood that the KC-30’s were built with A340 spec wings, I.e. there was the extra plumbing for fuel lines and the outboard engine mounts were used to hang the drogue pods from. Is the internal structure seemingly easy to add? And do the current KC-30 aircraft have the No. 1 & 4 engine feed tanks installed to supply the pods with fuel? If so then there may need to be some significant rework to make these A330’s the same as the KC-30’s

  • Red Barron

    says:

    I also recall the discounted Airbus MRTT deal back a few years ago included the deal around the naval version of the MH90’s over the Seahawks romeo’s.

  • Chris G

    says:

    Bill, I made a similar point in the last para 5 above 2JUL 1026K in my reply to Corey.

    Jimmy I was referring to the 2 RAAF BBJs used for VVIP work without mentioning them outright. They are owned by QANTAS DS now Northrop Grumman and leased to the RAAF. I do not have access too A330 build data, the MSNs are not mentioned in the 1JUL DEFMIN Press Release so everyone is guessing about the specific airframes at this stage. The BBJs can carry up to 30PAX according too the RAAF website over a similar unrefuelled range and cruising speed to the KC30A with VVIP load of ~100. The latter has a UARRSI so can be refuelled in flight unlike the BBJ. At least one of our recent PMs used a KC30A too transport the media.

    I find using a comment box especially frustrating to edit a post and constantly fighting the spell checker. I am not sure whether the last is AAs online or in my mobile and tablet.

  • Corey

    says:

    With the extra C-17s and possibly 2 future Airbus acj330 fitted with the KC- 30A refuelling boom receiver and counter measures system should the government and the RAAF look into getting more than the now 7 KC-30A aircraft especially that the RAAF have kept the boom refuelling receiver on the new F-35As we’re getting? I personally believe they RAAF should of developed a probe and droge refuelling system for the F -35A JSF based of the B and C models and removed the boom receiver.

  • John N

    says:

    Red Barron,

    It wasn’t the NH-90 vs MH-60R competition, that was prior, it was when the tender was out for the Caribou replacements, eg, C-295 vs C-27J.

    Airbus was trying to get the C-295 over the line ahead of the C-27J, and that was when they tried to sweeten the pot by throwing in the unsolicited offer of converting the spare A330 airframe into a KC-30A that they had for approx. A$200m and they were also sweetening the pot even further by offering to help keep the Brisbane conversion line open by providing other MRTT conversion work for other customers too, needless to say neither happened!

    Bill,

    As I’ve always understood it, the basic wing structure of standard ‘commercial’ A330’s and A340’s are common to each other, hence why the conversion of an A330 into a MRTT is a fairly straight forward process, from all that I’ve read and heard in the past, the wing of an A330 does in fact have the necessary reinforced mounting locations and provision for fuel piping for the A340’s two outboard engines and it’s those two outboard engine locations where the refuelling pods are mounted.

    Obviously the various bits of ‘plumbing will have to be fitted, as well as whatever other specific wing mods that are required during the conversion process, but it’s not going to be the significant rework of the wings that you might think.

    As long as all the conversion work comes in at the agreed price, which obviously includes the two ex QF birds, who really cares how much work Airbus is required to perform, but I’d be surprised if the conversion process was any different to the previous conversion processes, eg, obtain a ‘green’ A-330-200 off the production line and convert it!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Roger P

    says:

    hello all,
    thanks for comments Corey, John N etc. As John rightly points out there have been MANY components used in the airframe/engines upgraded or completely replaced in the time since the production of our original batch – I seem to remember Airbus announcing a wholesale production update to the A330 a couple of years ago. New airframes, would need a significantly different spares holding with the attendant costs.
    As to the increased capability of 2 new airframes, imagine Airforce are tasked with refuelling a flight of F/A18F’s at long range which is going to tax the offload limit of the tanker, you assign a new model from the fleet, it goes U/S at the last minute and needs to be replaced by an earlier model with lower offload capability – do you have enough capability to bring them home. Not worth the complexity/uncertainty.
    The end result will be 2 sub-fleets, 1 of 2 aircraft and 1 of 5 aircraft, NOT a fleet of 7 aircraft which is what we need. With a small fleet you need to be able to use any aircraft on any task, to properly manage your long term utilisation and plan maintenance.
    All A330’s are manufactured with the fuel line plumbing, mountings & hard-points for the engine 1 & 4 positions, which is why it is relatively easy to add the wing refuelling pods in those positions.
    A lot of the airframe modification is related to the significant strengthening for the ARBS Boom, extra wiring to accommodate the refuelling operator station in the cockpit, tanker-specific external lighting and the various monitoring cameras.
    The purchase price includes the tanker conversion cost as well as acquisition and refurb.
    BH… You are right, at one stage, all RAAF members were prohibited from flying on the leased AN124’s due to airworthiness concerns.

  • Gary

    says:

    Not wishing to get off topic; however, the bans on ADF personnel travelling on leased Russian aircraft due safety concerns related to the AN12s and IL76s that were predominantly used at that time. I am not away if they also applied to the AN124.

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RAAF to acquire two additional KC-30s

written by Gerard Frawley | July 1, 2015

KC-30A Refuel Boom ContactAustralia is to acquire two further Airbus KC-30A tanker-transports, taking the RAAF’s fleet to seven, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has announced.

“The two additional KC-30A aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and provide a substantial increase to the air-to-air refuelling capacity of the RAAF,” Andrews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Defence has signed an update to the existing acquisition contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the two aircraft and associated conversion at a cost of approximately $408 million.”

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The KC-30 (Airbus calls it the A330 MRTT – Multi Role Tanker Transport) is a development of the A330-200 airliner, featuring an ARBS (Advanced Refuelling Boom System) boom mounted beneath the rear fuselage and underwing mounted ‘probe and drogue’ pods. It also has a significant ‘air logistics support’ capability able to carry cargo in its underfloor freight compartments and, in RAAF service, 270 passengers in airliner-style seating.

Although four of the original five aircraft were converted from ‘green’ A330 airframes to their KC-30 configuration by Qantas Defence Services (now Northrop Grumman Australia Integrated Defence Services) at Brisbane Airport, the two new aircraft – secondhand ex Qantas A330-200 airliners – will be converted to tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.

“These aircraft will be based on two previously-owned Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners which will be converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and delivered in 2018,” Airbus Defence and Space said in a statement.

“The RAAF decided to use these particular aircraft as they are extremely close to the same basic specification as the KC-30As already in service.”

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The two ex Qantas airframes are being acquired are VH-EBH (msn 892) and VH-EBI (msn 898), a Qantas spokesman has confirmed. Both aircraft were built in 2007 (and so are of a similar vintage to the existing RAAF KC-30s) and were leased by owner CIT Aerospace to Qantas. VH-EBH has already been withdrawn from Qantas service, operating its last service for the airline in May, while EBI is expected to be withdrawn by November.

The acquisition of extra KC-30s was first publicly flagged by former Defence Minister Senator David Johnston in a media interview last year.

“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’,” the then Minister was reported as saying.

After a difficult early development that saw the KC-30 acquisition managed under Defence’s ‘Projects of Concern‘ process, the aircraft has rapidly matured in service. Refuelling trials with the once troubled boom are now underway and earlier problems with the hose and drogue pods and support and sustainment issues have been resolved.

A single KC-30 has been deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE supporting RAAF and coalition strike aircraft flying combat missions over Iraq against Islamic State since last October, during which time it has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

The KC-30s are operated by Amberley-based 33 Squadron.

The announcement was the second new A330 MRTT order this week after South Korea announced on Tuesday its selection of the aircraft ahead of Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 Pegasus. South Korea will take delivery of four A330 MRTTs – its first air-to-air refuelling aircraft – by 2019.

45 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    Good to hear, but one hopes that 7 isn’t the final number.

  • Keg

    says:

    Surely this brings into sharp focus the prospect of an A330 based ACJ/ VIP fleet? With 7 A330s in the fleet, an extra 2 for VIP OPS strikes me as a very logical airframe to cater to both the PM and the travelling press gallery.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Was hoping for an additonal three, not two, as the original planned MRTT fleet size, however still great news.

    Wonder if any will be fitted out with VIP interiors?

    Interesting that these two will be second-hand. I had been assuming that this pending order would be new-build like the first five. Just cutting costs?

    A shame that this wasn’t timed a little differently, so that the Brisbane facility could have had the extra conversion work before that wound down, rather than giving Airbus Spain the work.

  • Tony

    says:

    If we are going down this track why don’t we scrap the submarine fleet and acquire another 8 or 12 P8 Aircraft at $4 to $6 Billion and may be another 4 to 6 KC30s to refuel them at say another $1 to $1.5 billion. We would be able to extend our maritime surveillance well beyond the range of 12 Submarines at $58 billion and save heaps of money. Also not have the crewing problems of manning 12 submarines.

  • WishfulThinking

    says:

    2 x ex QF A332s to be delivered 2018. Bit of reading between the lines, connecting dots and wishful thinking may lead one to believe a new type commitment is very close for QF? I believe the first options for the B789s were in 2017, making way for the retirement of some A330s.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Tony, submarines and surveillance aircraft are two vastly different capabilities. We need a mix of both.

    Just for starters, submarines are an unseen deterrent with excellent long-range loitering ability. They can be sent to stealthily loiter in strategic maritime choke-points at long distances from our shores, reconnoitre coastlines and monitor vessels of other navies including their sound signatures, for example.

    Submarines have been identified as critical to Australia’s defence. They won’t be going away.

  • brian

    says:

    Al Dhafra, not. Al Minhad.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Thanks Brian, the article has been corrected.

  • Bob

    says:

    Why buy second hand ? doesn’t make sense ?

    The air frames, are already old

    How much is Tanker up date going to cost the tax payer

    You can never have too many Tanker and Transport aircraft the force multipliers

  • Corey D

    says:

    I’m glad that the RAAF is getting 2 additional KC-30A aircraft although they’re second hand. I do still hope that the DMO, RAAF and the Government can by 5 new additional KC -30A aircraft for a fleet of 12 minimum. I also still hope the RAAF can buy an additional 2-4 C-17s if still available or by second hand ones from the USAF built between 2010-2015 with low hours/cycles along with possible re engine them with GEnx2B engines and new updated avionics.The RAAF should buy at least 2 ACJ330-200 or BBJ777/747-8I equipped with a refuelling boom receiver and counter measures for VIP Transportation with travelling media. I personally like the 747-8I as it can fly from Canberra to NY with 100 passengers non stop and costs approx $15,000 per hour to operate also with Australia being so far away from major countries like the US there is a hell of a lot of water separating us and 4 engines provide extra safety and redundancies.

  • Bill

    says:

    I thought we’d got past the point of buying flogged out ex airlines aircraft for our airforce.

  • Chris G

    says:

    I agree with Bill, Keg and Raymond that the RAAF needs more KC30As possibly with a mix of VVIP interiors. Given commercial airlines are flying A330s here PT aircrew would suffice, going FT in emergencies. The 33SQN SENGO document shows 32 business, 240 economy, 2 stretchers aft plus the crew rest and RARO station conversion behind the cockpit. Scaling QF cabin layouts show around 100 business class lie flat seats are possible in an A330-200 cabin without changing the galleys or toilets for VVIP use.
    100 VVIPs @ 150kg = 15tonne leaves 96tonne fuel so 11,000-11,500km unrefuelled range depending on diversion allowance cruising at 860kmhr The 13-14 hr flight time necessitates lie flat bed seats. The GG or PM could take 2 dozen staff + 2 dozen security + 4 dozen media and 2 crews.The main problem with the A330 is it requires twice the runway 2.7km.
    280 crew + PAX @ 125kg = 35tonne leaves 76tonne fuel so 8,500-9,000km unrefuelled range as above. A 10hr or so flight time for troops without lie flat bed seats is acceptable especially if trailing fighters 5hrs or less from the East to West or NW bare bases.
    Bob the A$ at 77 cents to the US$ and 69€ means the ADF and RAAF have too adjust their thinking. 2 extra C17A ERs and 10 C27Js have too be paid for. Ex QF aircraft mean that the 2 airframes can be bought with A$, not affecting our international currency reserves.
    The cost of the works at Amberley building the bund to stop the Brisbane river flooding again, the 2nd C17/KC30 sized hangar and apron for 8 C17A ERs, 7 KC30As and 10 C27Js as the figures now stand surely must mean a 4km N S runway at Richmond given the apron and other facilities already their, should be reconsidered. Otherwise Richmond might go the way of nearby Nirimba in the 2030s as the C130J30s useful life expires.

  • Gary

    says:

    Bob / Bill,

    Whilst the airframes may not be new and have a number of airline cycles on them, the age should not be an issue given the airframe / engine combo is close to our existing KC30As. In addition, airframe cycles in military operation are nowhere near as heavy as airline operations therefore, age / cycles on the existing two ex QF birds will not be an issue. In addition, purchasing them from QF in $A is much more costs effective than a direct purchase from Europe.

    Corey,

    Calm down on the C17s. Yes it would be preferable to have 10 or more; however, with Qatar gazumping us with their order for 4, that ship has well and truly sailed. I highly doubt the USAF would give up any late model C17s from their fleet given the current workload.

  • Andrew Cran

    says:

    So, we’re paying 400 million for old, high hour aircraft, when we could buy 2 new ones from Airbus for an extra 40 million. Why are we paying 90% of the new price for old clunkers?

  • Adam W

    says:

    Why couldn’t QF get rid of 2 ex JQ birds instead? Hate those iPads they use on them.

  • Raymond

    says:

    RAAF Amberley is going to be one super-sized, busy base, with an additional 12 Growlers, 2 C-17’s, 2 KC-30’s and 10 C-27J’s coming!

  • John N

    says:

    Agree with Gary 100%, no problem or stress over using relatively young used A330’s, especially these two. Of the five existing KC-30A’s, these two ex QF birds are younger than the first airframe and a bit older than the last four airframes, so from a maintenance and ongoing management of the aircraft across the whole fleet, it seems like a perfect solution to me.

    For those that might remember Airbus did make an unsolicited offer a couple of years ago (March 2012) with a ‘green’ airframe (MSN871) that was part of the failed USAF bid, it is fact a bit older than these two ex QF airframes (MSN892 and MSN898), (I wonder what actually happened to that particular airframe? AA, do you guys have any info??), the offer a couple of years ago was for approx. A$200m (which at the time with the ‘high’ dollar, was approx. US$212m).

    Roll forward to today and the Aussie dollar has slipped quiet a bit against the US Dollar and the Euro, this deal announced today for A$408m, is actually US$314.89m (or around US$157.5m per airframe) or around 282.34m Euro (or 141.17m Euro per airframe). Looks like a pretty good deal to me when it was reported that the deal for the original five airframes was reportedly around A$1.5B, or A$300m per airframe.

    Let’s take that cost one step further, the ‘list’ price of a ‘new’ A330-200 on the Airbus website is US$229m, of course no one pays ‘list’ price, but still, the deal looks like we are paying most of the money for the MRTT ‘conversion’ process and virtually next to nothing for the airframes, a pretty good deal in my book!!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Bill

    says:

    Gary, yes they are not old airframes by any means, but they will have been built to a different specification to the new KC-30’s. Engines are not the only things that are optionable. Also, the aircraft that are expected to be taken aren’t owned by Qantas, and won’t be bought by Australian dollars because the lessor is an American company.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Firstly the article contradicts itself by saying the aircraft were owned by Qantas and then says they were leased from CIT Aerospace. So which is it?

    Next the JQ ordered aircraft are actually lower time compared to those ordered and operated by Qantas domestically before being transferred to Jetstar. And I don’t think the Ipads would be going with them!!!

    And finally, the 400 million is for the purchase of the aircraft and conversion. So the supposed saving of 40 million will be much higher than that. Also describing these aircraft as old clunkers is a nonsense as they are only 7-8 years old

  • Jason

    says:

    Another 2 aircraft which in effect with near double the realistic amount of aircraft available on the line each day. No doubting this is a great capability however married with the recently announced increase in C-17A fleet, lets hope government now also commits to the workforce to support these aircraft, specifically the commitment to the aircrew operating the aircraft but critically also those who operate the air terminals providing ramp services and re-fuelling.

  • Corey

    says:

    I’d like to argue a valid point here. Why isn’t Australia buying new aircraft since they could be bought for approx $250 million each according to ibtimes which reported France has ordered 12 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for $12 billion presumable in US dollars with current conversion rate be approx $325.75 million each rounding up ($325,747,755.00) Sauce: http://www.ibtimes.com/airbus-sells-12-a330-mrtt-tankers-france-after-14-billion-deal-delta-1727799 viewed on 1/07/2015 at 23:14hrs. Yes buying new might cost more but would it be more beneficial in the long run? Id the RAAF ordered 12 new aircraft like France today it would cost A$15.65 billion rounded up (A$15,644,352,360.00). Also the aircraft ordered by France are combi /convertable aircraft meaning they will feature the landing gear, cargo door and floor while also able to have seats fitted for passenger transport. Yes Australia doen’t have much money to spend but more spending needs to be spent of defence because 100 F-35s, 8 P-8s, 24 super hornets, 12 EA-18G growlers along with minimal naval and army assets will protect Australia in the future!

  • Matthew

    says:

    Great to see an increase in RAAF capability!

  • MikeofPerth

    says:

    Corey believe it or not the ADF is more than capable of protecting Australia from a conventional attack. This is largely because of our existing and future capabilities, the fact that none of our potential adversaries have the power projection capabilities to project a level of force we can’t defeat and the intelligence we share with close allies such as the US.

    The Indonesians buying a few new Russian fighters that can do fancy tricks at air shows or the Chinese developing a stealth fighter that belches black smoke out of the engines hardly constitutes an increased level of threat to our nation. This situation is likely to continue for at least the next 20 years, provided Defence procurement proceeds as planned. If the threat level increases closer to that time then we can buy more assets then.

    We must be careful not to increase our defence capabilities too much otherwise we might start an arms race in the region, which will just cause any extra investment to be wasted. I have read many times in the past about how the decision to not fit the old RAAF 707 tankers with a boom to refuel the F111s, was a political decision to avoid starting such an arms race. Two extra KC-30s might not sound like much but it will provide the RAAF with a 40% increase in tanker capacity over what they already have. This is more than what most air forces around the world have and significantly better than what most of our adversaries have. The PLAAF only have 11 tankers if Wikipedia is an accurate guide and they are one of the largest air forces in the world.

    As for the decision to buy second hand, I haven’t had much time to read up on it but I believe it is a financial decision related to the drop in the AUD against other currencies.

  • adammudhen

    says:

    @Raymond – duly noted! 🙂 I’m happy to be proven wrong in this case, anything that increases the user base of the KC-30 is a good thing (plus I think it’s a better aircraft than the KC-46A in most respects).

    Perhaps a pint is in order to prove there’s no hard feelings lol

  • Chris G

    says:

    Corey, you got the $250M each right but the $12B relates to a sale to Delta Airlines by Airbus.

    The French A330 MRTTs will be turned into Combis at a latter date. Only a Freighter design exists now. Because the A330 sits nose down on the tarmac an external fairing under the nosewheel is required allowing longer nosewheel gear for a level floor. Note the floor will be about 5m above the apron requiring specialist lifting equipment that might not be available at a forward air base.

    The F model has no ceiling stowage, AC ducts or lighting etc. So besides being 5m+ wide at floor level it can only take 2.44m high in a centre row. 6.1m long x 2.44m wide x 2.44m high seems the largest dimension that will fit through the freight door ~5m up. So only B vehicles like the G Wagon will fit. Payload varies between 59-67tonne due to the Max Landing Weight so fuel varies between 52-44tonne limiting range to 6-7hrs without a diversion contingency.

    A Combi will need to retain the overhead baggage lockers, AC ducts, lighting and power for palletised seating. I scaled an Airbus cross section of the cabin, so if the floor height is not raised by the conversion a Max of 1.83m high clearance will exist in the centre. 15cm less underneath the side lockers. This rules out carrying most vehicles. Severely limiting the Combis military utility.

    The RAAF are buying second hand because it represents value for money. Known as bang for buck. I suspect the conversion work is being done in Spain due to the wings not having internal plumbing too, and pylons for the A340 engines where the under wing hose and drogue pods will be mounted. Everything else has been done in Brisbane before. Spain are Airbus partners unlike Australia so have better access to their engineers to work through this issue quicker a first time.

  • Raymond

    says:

    adammudhen – that’s the spirit! No, no hard feelings! 🙂

    Yes, orders for the MRTT are really stacking up now.

  • Roger P

    says:

    reality check people,
    The comments about “”flogged-out ex commercial”” airframes is ridiculous. these are being returned to the lessor (NOT being purchased from QANTAS) as their leases expire this year, and the purchase price includes refurb to ”as new” – no correlation to any new type?? The purchase/conversion process with CIT and Airbus Defence & Space. takes time to complete. Airbus Spain already has a significant backlog of conversions – from memory the QDS conversions took almost a year each. The tooling and jigs were returned to Airbus ages ago, and no-one is going to do a conversion setup here for 2 airframes.
    In short the bottom line is commonality of capability for all 7 aircraft – the new A330-200’s from Airbus are a considerably different configuration including upgraded Max Take-off weight & fuel offload.

  • Gary

    says:

    Roger, excellent response!

  • Jimmy

    says:

    WishfulThinking, yes wishful thinking. A 2018 delivery would be the time it takes to refit them. Qantas announced the return of these two aircraft at the same time as they announced the accelerated 767 replacement.

  • Jimmy

    says:

    Chris G, Qantas does not and has never owned these two aircraft. They are owned by the Irish leasing company CIT. So not sure what your sums are trying to prove.

  • Corey

    says:

    Thanks for the feed back guys it goes along way; plus it’s also good to get other peoples inside for these topics. Roger P if the RAAF did buy new KLC-30As based on the Airbus A330-200 242t MTOW upgrade wouldn’t that provide slightly greater capability with extra fuel off load and or more cargo to be transported? Also to everyone should The RAAF start using commercial cargo aircraft such as a A330F, Boeing 777 or 747-8F to transport cargo that isn’t needed in zone or an unpaved or shortened runway due to a natural disaster? Would the operating costs be less and would it be more efficient to transport types of cargo in Military owned commercial cargo aircraft freeing up the C-17s and C-130s which are tactical type aircraft? Another point I’d like everyone view on is if and when Australia will get the Airbus A400M to replace the C-130s?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Corey…
    The RAAF has in the past chartered commercial freighters to transport passengers and equipment. Back in the 2000’s during the height of our involvement in the Middle East, the ADF did charter a commercial A330 on a regular basis to transport smaller freight items and passengers. Also AN124s and other heavy lift aircraft were used to transport heavier items. I do remember though due to safety concerns with some of those heavy lift aircraft that ADF personnel were restricted from flying on them…? Correct me if I’m wrong on that one. However, I think that was before the RAAF had the C17 and KC30 in play or a least in significant numbers. Why when you have your own capability would you pay to charter other assets. In times when a surge capability is required I’m required I’m sure the ADF would use that same service again. Yes, the C130s and C17 have a tactical capability, but if they are not being used for a tactical mission at the time then they are there to be used. Now that the KC30 is in service, we have pretty much got all the bases covered with regard to transporting heavy/over sized cargo and passengers.
    On your second point, when is the C130 expected to reach ‘Life of Type’…? The ADF like any other force or company would have a planned date for replacement of their assets. These would obviously have efficiency and effectiveness factors built in. If the aircraft is still useful and has life left in it, why rush out replace it if you don’t need to. I’m sure there is a rough date set down in the future when the ADF will begin to plan, evaluate and procure a replacement for the J fleet. Until that time, unless there is a major change of plan or strategy, the ADF will continue to keep an eye on the development and operation of the A400M and any other potential future platforms. At the end of the day it all comes down to $$ and how wisely you spend it. Last time I looked there still weren’t any money trees growing in Canberra unfortunately. That was a book and a half…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Roger P – why not have the additional two KC-30’s to the new, upgraded standard? Commonality would still have been essentially the same as the original five, just better with improved specs, wouldn’t they?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Corey – Air Mobility Group has done extremely well these last few years and capability has been greatly improved. I can’t really see commercial cargo aircraft being added to the inventory as well.

    A400M’s replacing the C-130J’s? Not for a little while yet, if it happens. Don’t rule out that there’s a good chance a newer C-130 will be developed, continuing the long Hercules line in RAAF service.

  • John N

    says:

    I am really surprised by the angst shown by some over the Government’s decision to purchase second hand former QF airframes, obviously there is a cost element to this decision (and I’ll get to that later), but from a pure ‘commonality’ point of view when operating a relatively small fleet, it makes perfect sense to me.

    These two airframes came off the A-330 production line in 2007, the airframe for the first KC-30A was produced in 2006 and the remaining four were produced between 2008 and 2010, roll forward to today, 2015, and if the Government was to have ordered ‘new’ green airframes for MRTT conversion, which would probably mean airframes produced in 2016 or 2017, can you imagine all the subtle (but significant) and not so subtle engineering changes in that time?

    I’ll give you a good example with my car, that model was produced over a four year period and midway through production there was a major revision (not styling) but mechanical, and virtually every major mechanical component is NOT interchangeable, there is a very definite line drawn in the sand, before a certain VIN number its one type of part, after that VIN number it is a different part, doesn’t really matter to me, but the service department at the dealer has to maintain stock of ‘two’ types of those major components in its spare parts inventory, and I’m sure there is ‘premium’ that I am having to pay because of that too.

    Apply that to the KC-30A fleet, if the two extra airframes were new production, there would be a significant amount of engineering changes, how much extra spares holding would the RAAF have to contend with? I think it would be an expensive nightmare for it to contend with too. Of course if the Government had decided to ‘double’ the size of the fleet from 5 to 10, then having two ‘larger’ groups of subtypes would certainly be far more acceptable, but still, there would be additional overheads having to maintain two subtypes within the fleet.

    As to cost, and I mentioned this in an earlier post, these two KC-30A’s are going to cost A$408m or US$314.89m or E282.34m for the pair, that equates to A$204m or US$157.5m or E141.17m per airframe.

    And to repeat, back in 2012 when Airbus offered to modify an existing A330 airframe that it had used in its failed USAF tanker bid, the deal to supply that airframe and convert it to KC-30A configuration was for approximately A$200m, and with the high Aussie dollar at the time equated to US$212m.

    So while we might be paying a few million ( current value Australian) dollars more for each airframe compared to that offer, we are now paying approximately US$54.5m ‘less’ per airframe (approx. $US110m in total) than the deal offered back in 2012 which was to use an existing airframe from the same ‘vintage’ as the two ex QF birds. It’s almost as if we are getting these two airframe for virtually nothing and the vast majority of the expenditure will be the conversion costs.

    All sounds like a pretty good deal to me! (Now if we can only get Airbus to throw in that airframe they offered back in 2012, which is still owned by Airbus today, that will make the deal even sweeter!!).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    Great, John N – yes, the third extra airframe would bring the total to eight, which was the original RAAF requirement.

  • Bill

    says:

    One point that has been somewhat overlooked, I understood that the KC-30’s were built with A340 spec wings, I.e. there was the extra plumbing for fuel lines and the outboard engine mounts were used to hang the drogue pods from. Is the internal structure seemingly easy to add? And do the current KC-30 aircraft have the No. 1 & 4 engine feed tanks installed to supply the pods with fuel? If so then there may need to be some significant rework to make these A330’s the same as the KC-30’s

  • Red Barron

    says:

    I also recall the discounted Airbus MRTT deal back a few years ago included the deal around the naval version of the MH90’s over the Seahawks romeo’s.

  • Chris G

    says:

    Bill, I made a similar point in the last para 5 above 2JUL 1026K in my reply to Corey.

    Jimmy I was referring to the 2 RAAF BBJs used for VVIP work without mentioning them outright. They are owned by QANTAS DS now Northrop Grumman and leased to the RAAF. I do not have access too A330 build data, the MSNs are not mentioned in the 1JUL DEFMIN Press Release so everyone is guessing about the specific airframes at this stage. The BBJs can carry up to 30PAX according too the RAAF website over a similar unrefuelled range and cruising speed to the KC30A with VVIP load of ~100. The latter has a UARRSI so can be refuelled in flight unlike the BBJ. At least one of our recent PMs used a KC30A too transport the media.

    I find using a comment box especially frustrating to edit a post and constantly fighting the spell checker. I am not sure whether the last is AAs online or in my mobile and tablet.

  • Corey

    says:

    With the extra C-17s and possibly 2 future Airbus acj330 fitted with the KC- 30A refuelling boom receiver and counter measures system should the government and the RAAF look into getting more than the now 7 KC-30A aircraft especially that the RAAF have kept the boom refuelling receiver on the new F-35As we’re getting? I personally believe they RAAF should of developed a probe and droge refuelling system for the F -35A JSF based of the B and C models and removed the boom receiver.

  • John N

    says:

    Red Barron,

    It wasn’t the NH-90 vs MH-60R competition, that was prior, it was when the tender was out for the Caribou replacements, eg, C-295 vs C-27J.

    Airbus was trying to get the C-295 over the line ahead of the C-27J, and that was when they tried to sweeten the pot by throwing in the unsolicited offer of converting the spare A330 airframe into a KC-30A that they had for approx. A$200m and they were also sweetening the pot even further by offering to help keep the Brisbane conversion line open by providing other MRTT conversion work for other customers too, needless to say neither happened!

    Bill,

    As I’ve always understood it, the basic wing structure of standard ‘commercial’ A330’s and A340’s are common to each other, hence why the conversion of an A330 into a MRTT is a fairly straight forward process, from all that I’ve read and heard in the past, the wing of an A330 does in fact have the necessary reinforced mounting locations and provision for fuel piping for the A340’s two outboard engines and it’s those two outboard engine locations where the refuelling pods are mounted.

    Obviously the various bits of ‘plumbing will have to be fitted, as well as whatever other specific wing mods that are required during the conversion process, but it’s not going to be the significant rework of the wings that you might think.

    As long as all the conversion work comes in at the agreed price, which obviously includes the two ex QF birds, who really cares how much work Airbus is required to perform, but I’d be surprised if the conversion process was any different to the previous conversion processes, eg, obtain a ‘green’ A-330-200 off the production line and convert it!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Roger P

    says:

    hello all,
    thanks for comments Corey, John N etc. As John rightly points out there have been MANY components used in the airframe/engines upgraded or completely replaced in the time since the production of our original batch – I seem to remember Airbus announcing a wholesale production update to the A330 a couple of years ago. New airframes, would need a significantly different spares holding with the attendant costs.
    As to the increased capability of 2 new airframes, imagine Airforce are tasked with refuelling a flight of F/A18F’s at long range which is going to tax the offload limit of the tanker, you assign a new model from the fleet, it goes U/S at the last minute and needs to be replaced by an earlier model with lower offload capability – do you have enough capability to bring them home. Not worth the complexity/uncertainty.
    The end result will be 2 sub-fleets, 1 of 2 aircraft and 1 of 5 aircraft, NOT a fleet of 7 aircraft which is what we need. With a small fleet you need to be able to use any aircraft on any task, to properly manage your long term utilisation and plan maintenance.
    All A330’s are manufactured with the fuel line plumbing, mountings & hard-points for the engine 1 & 4 positions, which is why it is relatively easy to add the wing refuelling pods in those positions.
    A lot of the airframe modification is related to the significant strengthening for the ARBS Boom, extra wiring to accommodate the refuelling operator station in the cockpit, tanker-specific external lighting and the various monitoring cameras.
    The purchase price includes the tanker conversion cost as well as acquisition and refurb.
    BH… You are right, at one stage, all RAAF members were prohibited from flying on the leased AN124’s due to airworthiness concerns.

  • Gary

    says:

    Not wishing to get off topic; however, the bans on ADF personnel travelling on leased Russian aircraft due safety concerns related to the AN12s and IL76s that were predominantly used at that time. I am not away if they also applied to the AN124.

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RAAF to acquire two additional KC-30s

written by Gerard Frawley | July 1, 2015

KC-30A Refuel Boom ContactAustralia is to acquire two further Airbus KC-30A tanker-transports, taking the RAAF’s fleet to seven, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has announced.

“The two additional KC-30A aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and provide a substantial increase to the air-to-air refuelling capacity of the RAAF,” Andrews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Defence has signed an update to the existing acquisition contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the two aircraft and associated conversion at a cost of approximately $408 million.”

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The KC-30 (Airbus calls it the A330 MRTT – Multi Role Tanker Transport) is a development of the A330-200 airliner, featuring an ARBS (Advanced Refuelling Boom System) boom mounted beneath the rear fuselage and underwing mounted ‘probe and drogue’ pods. It also has a significant ‘air logistics support’ capability able to carry cargo in its underfloor freight compartments and, in RAAF service, 270 passengers in airliner-style seating.

Although four of the original five aircraft were converted from ‘green’ A330 airframes to their KC-30 configuration by Qantas Defence Services (now Northrop Grumman Australia Integrated Defence Services) at Brisbane Airport, the two new aircraft – secondhand ex Qantas A330-200 airliners – will be converted to tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.

“These aircraft will be based on two previously-owned Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners which will be converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and delivered in 2018,” Airbus Defence and Space said in a statement.

“The RAAF decided to use these particular aircraft as they are extremely close to the same basic specification as the KC-30As already in service.”

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The two ex Qantas airframes are being acquired are VH-EBH (msn 892) and VH-EBI (msn 898), a Qantas spokesman has confirmed. Both aircraft were built in 2007 (and so are of a similar vintage to the existing RAAF KC-30s) and were leased by owner CIT Aerospace to Qantas. VH-EBH has already been withdrawn from Qantas service, operating its last service for the airline in May, while EBI is expected to be withdrawn by November.

The acquisition of extra KC-30s was first publicly flagged by former Defence Minister Senator David Johnston in a media interview last year.

“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’,” the then Minister was reported as saying.

After a difficult early development that saw the KC-30 acquisition managed under Defence’s ‘Projects of Concern‘ process, the aircraft has rapidly matured in service. Refuelling trials with the once troubled boom are now underway and earlier problems with the hose and drogue pods and support and sustainment issues have been resolved.

A single KC-30 has been deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE supporting RAAF and coalition strike aircraft flying combat missions over Iraq against Islamic State since last October, during which time it has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

The KC-30s are operated by Amberley-based 33 Squadron.

The announcement was the second new A330 MRTT order this week after South Korea announced on Tuesday its selection of the aircraft ahead of Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 Pegasus. South Korea will take delivery of four A330 MRTTs – its first air-to-air refuelling aircraft – by 2019.

45 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    Good to hear, but one hopes that 7 isn’t the final number.

  • Keg

    says:

    Surely this brings into sharp focus the prospect of an A330 based ACJ/ VIP fleet? With 7 A330s in the fleet, an extra 2 for VIP OPS strikes me as a very logical airframe to cater to both the PM and the travelling press gallery.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Was hoping for an additonal three, not two, as the original planned MRTT fleet size, however still great news.

    Wonder if any will be fitted out with VIP interiors?

    Interesting that these two will be second-hand. I had been assuming that this pending order would be new-build like the first five. Just cutting costs?

    A shame that this wasn’t timed a little differently, so that the Brisbane facility could have had the extra conversion work before that wound down, rather than giving Airbus Spain the work.

  • Tony

    says:

    If we are going down this track why don’t we scrap the submarine fleet and acquire another 8 or 12 P8 Aircraft at $4 to $6 Billion and may be another 4 to 6 KC30s to refuel them at say another $1 to $1.5 billion. We would be able to extend our maritime surveillance well beyond the range of 12 Submarines at $58 billion and save heaps of money. Also not have the crewing problems of manning 12 submarines.

  • WishfulThinking

    says:

    2 x ex QF A332s to be delivered 2018. Bit of reading between the lines, connecting dots and wishful thinking may lead one to believe a new type commitment is very close for QF? I believe the first options for the B789s were in 2017, making way for the retirement of some A330s.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Tony, submarines and surveillance aircraft are two vastly different capabilities. We need a mix of both.

    Just for starters, submarines are an unseen deterrent with excellent long-range loitering ability. They can be sent to stealthily loiter in strategic maritime choke-points at long distances from our shores, reconnoitre coastlines and monitor vessels of other navies including their sound signatures, for example.

    Submarines have been identified as critical to Australia’s defence. They won’t be going away.

  • brian

    says:

    Al Dhafra, not. Al Minhad.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Thanks Brian, the article has been corrected.

  • Bob

    says:

    Why buy second hand ? doesn’t make sense ?

    The air frames, are already old

    How much is Tanker up date going to cost the tax payer

    You can never have too many Tanker and Transport aircraft the force multipliers

  • Corey D

    says:

    I’m glad that the RAAF is getting 2 additional KC-30A aircraft although they’re second hand. I do still hope that the DMO, RAAF and the Government can by 5 new additional KC -30A aircraft for a fleet of 12 minimum. I also still hope the RAAF can buy an additional 2-4 C-17s if still available or by second hand ones from the USAF built between 2010-2015 with low hours/cycles along with possible re engine them with GEnx2B engines and new updated avionics.The RAAF should buy at least 2 ACJ330-200 or BBJ777/747-8I equipped with a refuelling boom receiver and counter measures for VIP Transportation with travelling media. I personally like the 747-8I as it can fly from Canberra to NY with 100 passengers non stop and costs approx $15,000 per hour to operate also with Australia being so far away from major countries like the US there is a hell of a lot of water separating us and 4 engines provide extra safety and redundancies.

  • Bill

    says:

    I thought we’d got past the point of buying flogged out ex airlines aircraft for our airforce.

  • Chris G

    says:

    I agree with Bill, Keg and Raymond that the RAAF needs more KC30As possibly with a mix of VVIP interiors. Given commercial airlines are flying A330s here PT aircrew would suffice, going FT in emergencies. The 33SQN SENGO document shows 32 business, 240 economy, 2 stretchers aft plus the crew rest and RARO station conversion behind the cockpit. Scaling QF cabin layouts show around 100 business class lie flat seats are possible in an A330-200 cabin without changing the galleys or toilets for VVIP use.
    100 VVIPs @ 150kg = 15tonne leaves 96tonne fuel so 11,000-11,500km unrefuelled range depending on diversion allowance cruising at 860kmhr The 13-14 hr flight time necessitates lie flat bed seats. The GG or PM could take 2 dozen staff + 2 dozen security + 4 dozen media and 2 crews.The main problem with the A330 is it requires twice the runway 2.7km.
    280 crew + PAX @ 125kg = 35tonne leaves 76tonne fuel so 8,500-9,000km unrefuelled range as above. A 10hr or so flight time for troops without lie flat bed seats is acceptable especially if trailing fighters 5hrs or less from the East to West or NW bare bases.
    Bob the A$ at 77 cents to the US$ and 69€ means the ADF and RAAF have too adjust their thinking. 2 extra C17A ERs and 10 C27Js have too be paid for. Ex QF aircraft mean that the 2 airframes can be bought with A$, not affecting our international currency reserves.
    The cost of the works at Amberley building the bund to stop the Brisbane river flooding again, the 2nd C17/KC30 sized hangar and apron for 8 C17A ERs, 7 KC30As and 10 C27Js as the figures now stand surely must mean a 4km N S runway at Richmond given the apron and other facilities already their, should be reconsidered. Otherwise Richmond might go the way of nearby Nirimba in the 2030s as the C130J30s useful life expires.

  • Gary

    says:

    Bob / Bill,

    Whilst the airframes may not be new and have a number of airline cycles on them, the age should not be an issue given the airframe / engine combo is close to our existing KC30As. In addition, airframe cycles in military operation are nowhere near as heavy as airline operations therefore, age / cycles on the existing two ex QF birds will not be an issue. In addition, purchasing them from QF in $A is much more costs effective than a direct purchase from Europe.

    Corey,

    Calm down on the C17s. Yes it would be preferable to have 10 or more; however, with Qatar gazumping us with their order for 4, that ship has well and truly sailed. I highly doubt the USAF would give up any late model C17s from their fleet given the current workload.

  • Andrew Cran

    says:

    So, we’re paying 400 million for old, high hour aircraft, when we could buy 2 new ones from Airbus for an extra 40 million. Why are we paying 90% of the new price for old clunkers?

  • Adam W

    says:

    Why couldn’t QF get rid of 2 ex JQ birds instead? Hate those iPads they use on them.

  • Raymond

    says:

    RAAF Amberley is going to be one super-sized, busy base, with an additional 12 Growlers, 2 C-17’s, 2 KC-30’s and 10 C-27J’s coming!

  • John N

    says:

    Agree with Gary 100%, no problem or stress over using relatively young used A330’s, especially these two. Of the five existing KC-30A’s, these two ex QF birds are younger than the first airframe and a bit older than the last four airframes, so from a maintenance and ongoing management of the aircraft across the whole fleet, it seems like a perfect solution to me.

    For those that might remember Airbus did make an unsolicited offer a couple of years ago (March 2012) with a ‘green’ airframe (MSN871) that was part of the failed USAF bid, it is fact a bit older than these two ex QF airframes (MSN892 and MSN898), (I wonder what actually happened to that particular airframe? AA, do you guys have any info??), the offer a couple of years ago was for approx. A$200m (which at the time with the ‘high’ dollar, was approx. US$212m).

    Roll forward to today and the Aussie dollar has slipped quiet a bit against the US Dollar and the Euro, this deal announced today for A$408m, is actually US$314.89m (or around US$157.5m per airframe) or around 282.34m Euro (or 141.17m Euro per airframe). Looks like a pretty good deal to me when it was reported that the deal for the original five airframes was reportedly around A$1.5B, or A$300m per airframe.

    Let’s take that cost one step further, the ‘list’ price of a ‘new’ A330-200 on the Airbus website is US$229m, of course no one pays ‘list’ price, but still, the deal looks like we are paying most of the money for the MRTT ‘conversion’ process and virtually next to nothing for the airframes, a pretty good deal in my book!!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Bill

    says:

    Gary, yes they are not old airframes by any means, but they will have been built to a different specification to the new KC-30’s. Engines are not the only things that are optionable. Also, the aircraft that are expected to be taken aren’t owned by Qantas, and won’t be bought by Australian dollars because the lessor is an American company.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Firstly the article contradicts itself by saying the aircraft were owned by Qantas and then says they were leased from CIT Aerospace. So which is it?

    Next the JQ ordered aircraft are actually lower time compared to those ordered and operated by Qantas domestically before being transferred to Jetstar. And I don’t think the Ipads would be going with them!!!

    And finally, the 400 million is for the purchase of the aircraft and conversion. So the supposed saving of 40 million will be much higher than that. Also describing these aircraft as old clunkers is a nonsense as they are only 7-8 years old

  • Jason

    says:

    Another 2 aircraft which in effect with near double the realistic amount of aircraft available on the line each day. No doubting this is a great capability however married with the recently announced increase in C-17A fleet, lets hope government now also commits to the workforce to support these aircraft, specifically the commitment to the aircrew operating the aircraft but critically also those who operate the air terminals providing ramp services and re-fuelling.

  • Corey

    says:

    I’d like to argue a valid point here. Why isn’t Australia buying new aircraft since they could be bought for approx $250 million each according to ibtimes which reported France has ordered 12 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for $12 billion presumable in US dollars with current conversion rate be approx $325.75 million each rounding up ($325,747,755.00) Sauce: http://www.ibtimes.com/airbus-sells-12-a330-mrtt-tankers-france-after-14-billion-deal-delta-1727799 viewed on 1/07/2015 at 23:14hrs. Yes buying new might cost more but would it be more beneficial in the long run? Id the RAAF ordered 12 new aircraft like France today it would cost A$15.65 billion rounded up (A$15,644,352,360.00). Also the aircraft ordered by France are combi /convertable aircraft meaning they will feature the landing gear, cargo door and floor while also able to have seats fitted for passenger transport. Yes Australia doen’t have much money to spend but more spending needs to be spent of defence because 100 F-35s, 8 P-8s, 24 super hornets, 12 EA-18G growlers along with minimal naval and army assets will protect Australia in the future!

  • Matthew

    says:

    Great to see an increase in RAAF capability!

  • MikeofPerth

    says:

    Corey believe it or not the ADF is more than capable of protecting Australia from a conventional attack. This is largely because of our existing and future capabilities, the fact that none of our potential adversaries have the power projection capabilities to project a level of force we can’t defeat and the intelligence we share with close allies such as the US.

    The Indonesians buying a few new Russian fighters that can do fancy tricks at air shows or the Chinese developing a stealth fighter that belches black smoke out of the engines hardly constitutes an increased level of threat to our nation. This situation is likely to continue for at least the next 20 years, provided Defence procurement proceeds as planned. If the threat level increases closer to that time then we can buy more assets then.

    We must be careful not to increase our defence capabilities too much otherwise we might start an arms race in the region, which will just cause any extra investment to be wasted. I have read many times in the past about how the decision to not fit the old RAAF 707 tankers with a boom to refuel the F111s, was a political decision to avoid starting such an arms race. Two extra KC-30s might not sound like much but it will provide the RAAF with a 40% increase in tanker capacity over what they already have. This is more than what most air forces around the world have and significantly better than what most of our adversaries have. The PLAAF only have 11 tankers if Wikipedia is an accurate guide and they are one of the largest air forces in the world.

    As for the decision to buy second hand, I haven’t had much time to read up on it but I believe it is a financial decision related to the drop in the AUD against other currencies.

  • adammudhen

    says:

    @Raymond – duly noted! 🙂 I’m happy to be proven wrong in this case, anything that increases the user base of the KC-30 is a good thing (plus I think it’s a better aircraft than the KC-46A in most respects).

    Perhaps a pint is in order to prove there’s no hard feelings lol

  • Chris G

    says:

    Corey, you got the $250M each right but the $12B relates to a sale to Delta Airlines by Airbus.

    The French A330 MRTTs will be turned into Combis at a latter date. Only a Freighter design exists now. Because the A330 sits nose down on the tarmac an external fairing under the nosewheel is required allowing longer nosewheel gear for a level floor. Note the floor will be about 5m above the apron requiring specialist lifting equipment that might not be available at a forward air base.

    The F model has no ceiling stowage, AC ducts or lighting etc. So besides being 5m+ wide at floor level it can only take 2.44m high in a centre row. 6.1m long x 2.44m wide x 2.44m high seems the largest dimension that will fit through the freight door ~5m up. So only B vehicles like the G Wagon will fit. Payload varies between 59-67tonne due to the Max Landing Weight so fuel varies between 52-44tonne limiting range to 6-7hrs without a diversion contingency.

    A Combi will need to retain the overhead baggage lockers, AC ducts, lighting and power for palletised seating. I scaled an Airbus cross section of the cabin, so if the floor height is not raised by the conversion a Max of 1.83m high clearance will exist in the centre. 15cm less underneath the side lockers. This rules out carrying most vehicles. Severely limiting the Combis military utility.

    The RAAF are buying second hand because it represents value for money. Known as bang for buck. I suspect the conversion work is being done in Spain due to the wings not having internal plumbing too, and pylons for the A340 engines where the under wing hose and drogue pods will be mounted. Everything else has been done in Brisbane before. Spain are Airbus partners unlike Australia so have better access to their engineers to work through this issue quicker a first time.

  • Raymond

    says:

    adammudhen – that’s the spirit! No, no hard feelings! 🙂

    Yes, orders for the MRTT are really stacking up now.

  • Roger P

    says:

    reality check people,
    The comments about “”flogged-out ex commercial”” airframes is ridiculous. these are being returned to the lessor (NOT being purchased from QANTAS) as their leases expire this year, and the purchase price includes refurb to ”as new” – no correlation to any new type?? The purchase/conversion process with CIT and Airbus Defence & Space. takes time to complete. Airbus Spain already has a significant backlog of conversions – from memory the QDS conversions took almost a year each. The tooling and jigs were returned to Airbus ages ago, and no-one is going to do a conversion setup here for 2 airframes.
    In short the bottom line is commonality of capability for all 7 aircraft – the new A330-200’s from Airbus are a considerably different configuration including upgraded Max Take-off weight & fuel offload.

  • Gary

    says:

    Roger, excellent response!

  • Jimmy

    says:

    WishfulThinking, yes wishful thinking. A 2018 delivery would be the time it takes to refit them. Qantas announced the return of these two aircraft at the same time as they announced the accelerated 767 replacement.

  • Jimmy

    says:

    Chris G, Qantas does not and has never owned these two aircraft. They are owned by the Irish leasing company CIT. So not sure what your sums are trying to prove.

  • Corey

    says:

    Thanks for the feed back guys it goes along way; plus it’s also good to get other peoples inside for these topics. Roger P if the RAAF did buy new KLC-30As based on the Airbus A330-200 242t MTOW upgrade wouldn’t that provide slightly greater capability with extra fuel off load and or more cargo to be transported? Also to everyone should The RAAF start using commercial cargo aircraft such as a A330F, Boeing 777 or 747-8F to transport cargo that isn’t needed in zone or an unpaved or shortened runway due to a natural disaster? Would the operating costs be less and would it be more efficient to transport types of cargo in Military owned commercial cargo aircraft freeing up the C-17s and C-130s which are tactical type aircraft? Another point I’d like everyone view on is if and when Australia will get the Airbus A400M to replace the C-130s?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Corey…
    The RAAF has in the past chartered commercial freighters to transport passengers and equipment. Back in the 2000’s during the height of our involvement in the Middle East, the ADF did charter a commercial A330 on a regular basis to transport smaller freight items and passengers. Also AN124s and other heavy lift aircraft were used to transport heavier items. I do remember though due to safety concerns with some of those heavy lift aircraft that ADF personnel were restricted from flying on them…? Correct me if I’m wrong on that one. However, I think that was before the RAAF had the C17 and KC30 in play or a least in significant numbers. Why when you have your own capability would you pay to charter other assets. In times when a surge capability is required I’m required I’m sure the ADF would use that same service again. Yes, the C130s and C17 have a tactical capability, but if they are not being used for a tactical mission at the time then they are there to be used. Now that the KC30 is in service, we have pretty much got all the bases covered with regard to transporting heavy/over sized cargo and passengers.
    On your second point, when is the C130 expected to reach ‘Life of Type’…? The ADF like any other force or company would have a planned date for replacement of their assets. These would obviously have efficiency and effectiveness factors built in. If the aircraft is still useful and has life left in it, why rush out replace it if you don’t need to. I’m sure there is a rough date set down in the future when the ADF will begin to plan, evaluate and procure a replacement for the J fleet. Until that time, unless there is a major change of plan or strategy, the ADF will continue to keep an eye on the development and operation of the A400M and any other potential future platforms. At the end of the day it all comes down to $$ and how wisely you spend it. Last time I looked there still weren’t any money trees growing in Canberra unfortunately. That was a book and a half…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Roger P – why not have the additional two KC-30’s to the new, upgraded standard? Commonality would still have been essentially the same as the original five, just better with improved specs, wouldn’t they?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Corey – Air Mobility Group has done extremely well these last few years and capability has been greatly improved. I can’t really see commercial cargo aircraft being added to the inventory as well.

    A400M’s replacing the C-130J’s? Not for a little while yet, if it happens. Don’t rule out that there’s a good chance a newer C-130 will be developed, continuing the long Hercules line in RAAF service.

  • John N

    says:

    I am really surprised by the angst shown by some over the Government’s decision to purchase second hand former QF airframes, obviously there is a cost element to this decision (and I’ll get to that later), but from a pure ‘commonality’ point of view when operating a relatively small fleet, it makes perfect sense to me.

    These two airframes came off the A-330 production line in 2007, the airframe for the first KC-30A was produced in 2006 and the remaining four were produced between 2008 and 2010, roll forward to today, 2015, and if the Government was to have ordered ‘new’ green airframes for MRTT conversion, which would probably mean airframes produced in 2016 or 2017, can you imagine all the subtle (but significant) and not so subtle engineering changes in that time?

    I’ll give you a good example with my car, that model was produced over a four year period and midway through production there was a major revision (not styling) but mechanical, and virtually every major mechanical component is NOT interchangeable, there is a very definite line drawn in the sand, before a certain VIN number its one type of part, after that VIN number it is a different part, doesn’t really matter to me, but the service department at the dealer has to maintain stock of ‘two’ types of those major components in its spare parts inventory, and I’m sure there is ‘premium’ that I am having to pay because of that too.

    Apply that to the KC-30A fleet, if the two extra airframes were new production, there would be a significant amount of engineering changes, how much extra spares holding would the RAAF have to contend with? I think it would be an expensive nightmare for it to contend with too. Of course if the Government had decided to ‘double’ the size of the fleet from 5 to 10, then having two ‘larger’ groups of subtypes would certainly be far more acceptable, but still, there would be additional overheads having to maintain two subtypes within the fleet.

    As to cost, and I mentioned this in an earlier post, these two KC-30A’s are going to cost A$408m or US$314.89m or E282.34m for the pair, that equates to A$204m or US$157.5m or E141.17m per airframe.

    And to repeat, back in 2012 when Airbus offered to modify an existing A330 airframe that it had used in its failed USAF tanker bid, the deal to supply that airframe and convert it to KC-30A configuration was for approximately A$200m, and with the high Aussie dollar at the time equated to US$212m.

    So while we might be paying a few million ( current value Australian) dollars more for each airframe compared to that offer, we are now paying approximately US$54.5m ‘less’ per airframe (approx. $US110m in total) than the deal offered back in 2012 which was to use an existing airframe from the same ‘vintage’ as the two ex QF birds. It’s almost as if we are getting these two airframe for virtually nothing and the vast majority of the expenditure will be the conversion costs.

    All sounds like a pretty good deal to me! (Now if we can only get Airbus to throw in that airframe they offered back in 2012, which is still owned by Airbus today, that will make the deal even sweeter!!).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    Great, John N – yes, the third extra airframe would bring the total to eight, which was the original RAAF requirement.

  • Bill

    says:

    One point that has been somewhat overlooked, I understood that the KC-30’s were built with A340 spec wings, I.e. there was the extra plumbing for fuel lines and the outboard engine mounts were used to hang the drogue pods from. Is the internal structure seemingly easy to add? And do the current KC-30 aircraft have the No. 1 & 4 engine feed tanks installed to supply the pods with fuel? If so then there may need to be some significant rework to make these A330’s the same as the KC-30’s

  • Red Barron

    says:

    I also recall the discounted Airbus MRTT deal back a few years ago included the deal around the naval version of the MH90’s over the Seahawks romeo’s.

  • Chris G

    says:

    Bill, I made a similar point in the last para 5 above 2JUL 1026K in my reply to Corey.

    Jimmy I was referring to the 2 RAAF BBJs used for VVIP work without mentioning them outright. They are owned by QANTAS DS now Northrop Grumman and leased to the RAAF. I do not have access too A330 build data, the MSNs are not mentioned in the 1JUL DEFMIN Press Release so everyone is guessing about the specific airframes at this stage. The BBJs can carry up to 30PAX according too the RAAF website over a similar unrefuelled range and cruising speed to the KC30A with VVIP load of ~100. The latter has a UARRSI so can be refuelled in flight unlike the BBJ. At least one of our recent PMs used a KC30A too transport the media.

    I find using a comment box especially frustrating to edit a post and constantly fighting the spell checker. I am not sure whether the last is AAs online or in my mobile and tablet.

  • Corey

    says:

    With the extra C-17s and possibly 2 future Airbus acj330 fitted with the KC- 30A refuelling boom receiver and counter measures system should the government and the RAAF look into getting more than the now 7 KC-30A aircraft especially that the RAAF have kept the boom refuelling receiver on the new F-35As we’re getting? I personally believe they RAAF should of developed a probe and droge refuelling system for the F -35A JSF based of the B and C models and removed the boom receiver.

  • John N

    says:

    Red Barron,

    It wasn’t the NH-90 vs MH-60R competition, that was prior, it was when the tender was out for the Caribou replacements, eg, C-295 vs C-27J.

    Airbus was trying to get the C-295 over the line ahead of the C-27J, and that was when they tried to sweeten the pot by throwing in the unsolicited offer of converting the spare A330 airframe into a KC-30A that they had for approx. A$200m and they were also sweetening the pot even further by offering to help keep the Brisbane conversion line open by providing other MRTT conversion work for other customers too, needless to say neither happened!

    Bill,

    As I’ve always understood it, the basic wing structure of standard ‘commercial’ A330’s and A340’s are common to each other, hence why the conversion of an A330 into a MRTT is a fairly straight forward process, from all that I’ve read and heard in the past, the wing of an A330 does in fact have the necessary reinforced mounting locations and provision for fuel piping for the A340’s two outboard engines and it’s those two outboard engine locations where the refuelling pods are mounted.

    Obviously the various bits of ‘plumbing will have to be fitted, as well as whatever other specific wing mods that are required during the conversion process, but it’s not going to be the significant rework of the wings that you might think.

    As long as all the conversion work comes in at the agreed price, which obviously includes the two ex QF birds, who really cares how much work Airbus is required to perform, but I’d be surprised if the conversion process was any different to the previous conversion processes, eg, obtain a ‘green’ A-330-200 off the production line and convert it!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Roger P

    says:

    hello all,
    thanks for comments Corey, John N etc. As John rightly points out there have been MANY components used in the airframe/engines upgraded or completely replaced in the time since the production of our original batch – I seem to remember Airbus announcing a wholesale production update to the A330 a couple of years ago. New airframes, would need a significantly different spares holding with the attendant costs.
    As to the increased capability of 2 new airframes, imagine Airforce are tasked with refuelling a flight of F/A18F’s at long range which is going to tax the offload limit of the tanker, you assign a new model from the fleet, it goes U/S at the last minute and needs to be replaced by an earlier model with lower offload capability – do you have enough capability to bring them home. Not worth the complexity/uncertainty.
    The end result will be 2 sub-fleets, 1 of 2 aircraft and 1 of 5 aircraft, NOT a fleet of 7 aircraft which is what we need. With a small fleet you need to be able to use any aircraft on any task, to properly manage your long term utilisation and plan maintenance.
    All A330’s are manufactured with the fuel line plumbing, mountings & hard-points for the engine 1 & 4 positions, which is why it is relatively easy to add the wing refuelling pods in those positions.
    A lot of the airframe modification is related to the significant strengthening for the ARBS Boom, extra wiring to accommodate the refuelling operator station in the cockpit, tanker-specific external lighting and the various monitoring cameras.
    The purchase price includes the tanker conversion cost as well as acquisition and refurb.
    BH… You are right, at one stage, all RAAF members were prohibited from flying on the leased AN124’s due to airworthiness concerns.

  • Gary

    says:

    Not wishing to get off topic; however, the bans on ADF personnel travelling on leased Russian aircraft due safety concerns related to the AN12s and IL76s that were predominantly used at that time. I am not away if they also applied to the AN124.

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RAAF to acquire two additional KC-30s

written by Gerard Frawley | July 1, 2015

KC-30A Refuel Boom ContactAustralia is to acquire two further Airbus KC-30A tanker-transports, taking the RAAF’s fleet to seven, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has announced.

“The two additional KC-30A aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and provide a substantial increase to the air-to-air refuelling capacity of the RAAF,” Andrews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Defence has signed an update to the existing acquisition contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the two aircraft and associated conversion at a cost of approximately $408 million.”

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The KC-30 (Airbus calls it the A330 MRTT – Multi Role Tanker Transport) is a development of the A330-200 airliner, featuring an ARBS (Advanced Refuelling Boom System) boom mounted beneath the rear fuselage and underwing mounted ‘probe and drogue’ pods. It also has a significant ‘air logistics support’ capability able to carry cargo in its underfloor freight compartments and, in RAAF service, 270 passengers in airliner-style seating.

Although four of the original five aircraft were converted from ‘green’ A330 airframes to their KC-30 configuration by Qantas Defence Services (now Northrop Grumman Australia Integrated Defence Services) at Brisbane Airport, the two new aircraft – secondhand ex Qantas A330-200 airliners – will be converted to tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.

“These aircraft will be based on two previously-owned Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners which will be converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and delivered in 2018,” Airbus Defence and Space said in a statement.

“The RAAF decided to use these particular aircraft as they are extremely close to the same basic specification as the KC-30As already in service.”

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The two ex Qantas airframes are being acquired are VH-EBH (msn 892) and VH-EBI (msn 898), a Qantas spokesman has confirmed. Both aircraft were built in 2007 (and so are of a similar vintage to the existing RAAF KC-30s) and were leased by owner CIT Aerospace to Qantas. VH-EBH has already been withdrawn from Qantas service, operating its last service for the airline in May, while EBI is expected to be withdrawn by November.

The acquisition of extra KC-30s was first publicly flagged by former Defence Minister Senator David Johnston in a media interview last year.

“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’,” the then Minister was reported as saying.

After a difficult early development that saw the KC-30 acquisition managed under Defence’s ‘Projects of Concern‘ process, the aircraft has rapidly matured in service. Refuelling trials with the once troubled boom are now underway and earlier problems with the hose and drogue pods and support and sustainment issues have been resolved.

A single KC-30 has been deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE supporting RAAF and coalition strike aircraft flying combat missions over Iraq against Islamic State since last October, during which time it has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

The KC-30s are operated by Amberley-based 33 Squadron.

The announcement was the second new A330 MRTT order this week after South Korea announced on Tuesday its selection of the aircraft ahead of Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 Pegasus. South Korea will take delivery of four A330 MRTTs – its first air-to-air refuelling aircraft – by 2019.

45 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    Good to hear, but one hopes that 7 isn’t the final number.

  • Keg

    says:

    Surely this brings into sharp focus the prospect of an A330 based ACJ/ VIP fleet? With 7 A330s in the fleet, an extra 2 for VIP OPS strikes me as a very logical airframe to cater to both the PM and the travelling press gallery.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Was hoping for an additonal three, not two, as the original planned MRTT fleet size, however still great news.

    Wonder if any will be fitted out with VIP interiors?

    Interesting that these two will be second-hand. I had been assuming that this pending order would be new-build like the first five. Just cutting costs?

    A shame that this wasn’t timed a little differently, so that the Brisbane facility could have had the extra conversion work before that wound down, rather than giving Airbus Spain the work.

  • Tony

    says:

    If we are going down this track why don’t we scrap the submarine fleet and acquire another 8 or 12 P8 Aircraft at $4 to $6 Billion and may be another 4 to 6 KC30s to refuel them at say another $1 to $1.5 billion. We would be able to extend our maritime surveillance well beyond the range of 12 Submarines at $58 billion and save heaps of money. Also not have the crewing problems of manning 12 submarines.

  • WishfulThinking

    says:

    2 x ex QF A332s to be delivered 2018. Bit of reading between the lines, connecting dots and wishful thinking may lead one to believe a new type commitment is very close for QF? I believe the first options for the B789s were in 2017, making way for the retirement of some A330s.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Tony, submarines and surveillance aircraft are two vastly different capabilities. We need a mix of both.

    Just for starters, submarines are an unseen deterrent with excellent long-range loitering ability. They can be sent to stealthily loiter in strategic maritime choke-points at long distances from our shores, reconnoitre coastlines and monitor vessels of other navies including their sound signatures, for example.

    Submarines have been identified as critical to Australia’s defence. They won’t be going away.

  • brian

    says:

    Al Dhafra, not. Al Minhad.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Thanks Brian, the article has been corrected.

  • Bob

    says:

    Why buy second hand ? doesn’t make sense ?

    The air frames, are already old

    How much is Tanker up date going to cost the tax payer

    You can never have too many Tanker and Transport aircraft the force multipliers

  • Corey D

    says:

    I’m glad that the RAAF is getting 2 additional KC-30A aircraft although they’re second hand. I do still hope that the DMO, RAAF and the Government can by 5 new additional KC -30A aircraft for a fleet of 12 minimum. I also still hope the RAAF can buy an additional 2-4 C-17s if still available or by second hand ones from the USAF built between 2010-2015 with low hours/cycles along with possible re engine them with GEnx2B engines and new updated avionics.The RAAF should buy at least 2 ACJ330-200 or BBJ777/747-8I equipped with a refuelling boom receiver and counter measures for VIP Transportation with travelling media. I personally like the 747-8I as it can fly from Canberra to NY with 100 passengers non stop and costs approx $15,000 per hour to operate also with Australia being so far away from major countries like the US there is a hell of a lot of water separating us and 4 engines provide extra safety and redundancies.

  • Bill

    says:

    I thought we’d got past the point of buying flogged out ex airlines aircraft for our airforce.

  • Chris G

    says:

    I agree with Bill, Keg and Raymond that the RAAF needs more KC30As possibly with a mix of VVIP interiors. Given commercial airlines are flying A330s here PT aircrew would suffice, going FT in emergencies. The 33SQN SENGO document shows 32 business, 240 economy, 2 stretchers aft plus the crew rest and RARO station conversion behind the cockpit. Scaling QF cabin layouts show around 100 business class lie flat seats are possible in an A330-200 cabin without changing the galleys or toilets for VVIP use.
    100 VVIPs @ 150kg = 15tonne leaves 96tonne fuel so 11,000-11,500km unrefuelled range depending on diversion allowance cruising at 860kmhr The 13-14 hr flight time necessitates lie flat bed seats. The GG or PM could take 2 dozen staff + 2 dozen security + 4 dozen media and 2 crews.The main problem with the A330 is it requires twice the runway 2.7km.
    280 crew + PAX @ 125kg = 35tonne leaves 76tonne fuel so 8,500-9,000km unrefuelled range as above. A 10hr or so flight time for troops without lie flat bed seats is acceptable especially if trailing fighters 5hrs or less from the East to West or NW bare bases.
    Bob the A$ at 77 cents to the US$ and 69€ means the ADF and RAAF have too adjust their thinking. 2 extra C17A ERs and 10 C27Js have too be paid for. Ex QF aircraft mean that the 2 airframes can be bought with A$, not affecting our international currency reserves.
    The cost of the works at Amberley building the bund to stop the Brisbane river flooding again, the 2nd C17/KC30 sized hangar and apron for 8 C17A ERs, 7 KC30As and 10 C27Js as the figures now stand surely must mean a 4km N S runway at Richmond given the apron and other facilities already their, should be reconsidered. Otherwise Richmond might go the way of nearby Nirimba in the 2030s as the C130J30s useful life expires.

  • Gary

    says:

    Bob / Bill,

    Whilst the airframes may not be new and have a number of airline cycles on them, the age should not be an issue given the airframe / engine combo is close to our existing KC30As. In addition, airframe cycles in military operation are nowhere near as heavy as airline operations therefore, age / cycles on the existing two ex QF birds will not be an issue. In addition, purchasing them from QF in $A is much more costs effective than a direct purchase from Europe.

    Corey,

    Calm down on the C17s. Yes it would be preferable to have 10 or more; however, with Qatar gazumping us with their order for 4, that ship has well and truly sailed. I highly doubt the USAF would give up any late model C17s from their fleet given the current workload.

  • Andrew Cran

    says:

    So, we’re paying 400 million for old, high hour aircraft, when we could buy 2 new ones from Airbus for an extra 40 million. Why are we paying 90% of the new price for old clunkers?

  • Adam W

    says:

    Why couldn’t QF get rid of 2 ex JQ birds instead? Hate those iPads they use on them.

  • Raymond

    says:

    RAAF Amberley is going to be one super-sized, busy base, with an additional 12 Growlers, 2 C-17’s, 2 KC-30’s and 10 C-27J’s coming!

  • John N

    says:

    Agree with Gary 100%, no problem or stress over using relatively young used A330’s, especially these two. Of the five existing KC-30A’s, these two ex QF birds are younger than the first airframe and a bit older than the last four airframes, so from a maintenance and ongoing management of the aircraft across the whole fleet, it seems like a perfect solution to me.

    For those that might remember Airbus did make an unsolicited offer a couple of years ago (March 2012) with a ‘green’ airframe (MSN871) that was part of the failed USAF bid, it is fact a bit older than these two ex QF airframes (MSN892 and MSN898), (I wonder what actually happened to that particular airframe? AA, do you guys have any info??), the offer a couple of years ago was for approx. A$200m (which at the time with the ‘high’ dollar, was approx. US$212m).

    Roll forward to today and the Aussie dollar has slipped quiet a bit against the US Dollar and the Euro, this deal announced today for A$408m, is actually US$314.89m (or around US$157.5m per airframe) or around 282.34m Euro (or 141.17m Euro per airframe). Looks like a pretty good deal to me when it was reported that the deal for the original five airframes was reportedly around A$1.5B, or A$300m per airframe.

    Let’s take that cost one step further, the ‘list’ price of a ‘new’ A330-200 on the Airbus website is US$229m, of course no one pays ‘list’ price, but still, the deal looks like we are paying most of the money for the MRTT ‘conversion’ process and virtually next to nothing for the airframes, a pretty good deal in my book!!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Bill

    says:

    Gary, yes they are not old airframes by any means, but they will have been built to a different specification to the new KC-30’s. Engines are not the only things that are optionable. Also, the aircraft that are expected to be taken aren’t owned by Qantas, and won’t be bought by Australian dollars because the lessor is an American company.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Firstly the article contradicts itself by saying the aircraft were owned by Qantas and then says they were leased from CIT Aerospace. So which is it?

    Next the JQ ordered aircraft are actually lower time compared to those ordered and operated by Qantas domestically before being transferred to Jetstar. And I don’t think the Ipads would be going with them!!!

    And finally, the 400 million is for the purchase of the aircraft and conversion. So the supposed saving of 40 million will be much higher than that. Also describing these aircraft as old clunkers is a nonsense as they are only 7-8 years old

  • Jason

    says:

    Another 2 aircraft which in effect with near double the realistic amount of aircraft available on the line each day. No doubting this is a great capability however married with the recently announced increase in C-17A fleet, lets hope government now also commits to the workforce to support these aircraft, specifically the commitment to the aircrew operating the aircraft but critically also those who operate the air terminals providing ramp services and re-fuelling.

  • Corey

    says:

    I’d like to argue a valid point here. Why isn’t Australia buying new aircraft since they could be bought for approx $250 million each according to ibtimes which reported France has ordered 12 Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for $12 billion presumable in US dollars with current conversion rate be approx $325.75 million each rounding up ($325,747,755.00) Sauce: http://www.ibtimes.com/airbus-sells-12-a330-mrtt-tankers-france-after-14-billion-deal-delta-1727799 viewed on 1/07/2015 at 23:14hrs. Yes buying new might cost more but would it be more beneficial in the long run? Id the RAAF ordered 12 new aircraft like France today it would cost A$15.65 billion rounded up (A$15,644,352,360.00). Also the aircraft ordered by France are combi /convertable aircraft meaning they will feature the landing gear, cargo door and floor while also able to have seats fitted for passenger transport. Yes Australia doen’t have much money to spend but more spending needs to be spent of defence because 100 F-35s, 8 P-8s, 24 super hornets, 12 EA-18G growlers along with minimal naval and army assets will protect Australia in the future!

  • Matthew

    says:

    Great to see an increase in RAAF capability!

  • MikeofPerth

    says:

    Corey believe it or not the ADF is more than capable of protecting Australia from a conventional attack. This is largely because of our existing and future capabilities, the fact that none of our potential adversaries have the power projection capabilities to project a level of force we can’t defeat and the intelligence we share with close allies such as the US.

    The Indonesians buying a few new Russian fighters that can do fancy tricks at air shows or the Chinese developing a stealth fighter that belches black smoke out of the engines hardly constitutes an increased level of threat to our nation. This situation is likely to continue for at least the next 20 years, provided Defence procurement proceeds as planned. If the threat level increases closer to that time then we can buy more assets then.

    We must be careful not to increase our defence capabilities too much otherwise we might start an arms race in the region, which will just cause any extra investment to be wasted. I have read many times in the past about how the decision to not fit the old RAAF 707 tankers with a boom to refuel the F111s, was a political decision to avoid starting such an arms race. Two extra KC-30s might not sound like much but it will provide the RAAF with a 40% increase in tanker capacity over what they already have. This is more than what most air forces around the world have and significantly better than what most of our adversaries have. The PLAAF only have 11 tankers if Wikipedia is an accurate guide and they are one of the largest air forces in the world.

    As for the decision to buy second hand, I haven’t had much time to read up on it but I believe it is a financial decision related to the drop in the AUD against other currencies.

  • adammudhen

    says:

    @Raymond – duly noted! 🙂 I’m happy to be proven wrong in this case, anything that increases the user base of the KC-30 is a good thing (plus I think it’s a better aircraft than the KC-46A in most respects).

    Perhaps a pint is in order to prove there’s no hard feelings lol

  • Chris G

    says:

    Corey, you got the $250M each right but the $12B relates to a sale to Delta Airlines by Airbus.

    The French A330 MRTTs will be turned into Combis at a latter date. Only a Freighter design exists now. Because the A330 sits nose down on the tarmac an external fairing under the nosewheel is required allowing longer nosewheel gear for a level floor. Note the floor will be about 5m above the apron requiring specialist lifting equipment that might not be available at a forward air base.

    The F model has no ceiling stowage, AC ducts or lighting etc. So besides being 5m+ wide at floor level it can only take 2.44m high in a centre row. 6.1m long x 2.44m wide x 2.44m high seems the largest dimension that will fit through the freight door ~5m up. So only B vehicles like the G Wagon will fit. Payload varies between 59-67tonne due to the Max Landing Weight so fuel varies between 52-44tonne limiting range to 6-7hrs without a diversion contingency.

    A Combi will need to retain the overhead baggage lockers, AC ducts, lighting and power for palletised seating. I scaled an Airbus cross section of the cabin, so if the floor height is not raised by the conversion a Max of 1.83m high clearance will exist in the centre. 15cm less underneath the side lockers. This rules out carrying most vehicles. Severely limiting the Combis military utility.

    The RAAF are buying second hand because it represents value for money. Known as bang for buck. I suspect the conversion work is being done in Spain due to the wings not having internal plumbing too, and pylons for the A340 engines where the under wing hose and drogue pods will be mounted. Everything else has been done in Brisbane before. Spain are Airbus partners unlike Australia so have better access to their engineers to work through this issue quicker a first time.

  • Raymond

    says:

    adammudhen – that’s the spirit! No, no hard feelings! 🙂

    Yes, orders for the MRTT are really stacking up now.

  • Roger P

    says:

    reality check people,
    The comments about “”flogged-out ex commercial”” airframes is ridiculous. these are being returned to the lessor (NOT being purchased from QANTAS) as their leases expire this year, and the purchase price includes refurb to ”as new” – no correlation to any new type?? The purchase/conversion process with CIT and Airbus Defence & Space. takes time to complete. Airbus Spain already has a significant backlog of conversions – from memory the QDS conversions took almost a year each. The tooling and jigs were returned to Airbus ages ago, and no-one is going to do a conversion setup here for 2 airframes.
    In short the bottom line is commonality of capability for all 7 aircraft – the new A330-200’s from Airbus are a considerably different configuration including upgraded Max Take-off weight & fuel offload.

  • Gary

    says:

    Roger, excellent response!

  • Jimmy

    says:

    WishfulThinking, yes wishful thinking. A 2018 delivery would be the time it takes to refit them. Qantas announced the return of these two aircraft at the same time as they announced the accelerated 767 replacement.

  • Jimmy

    says:

    Chris G, Qantas does not and has never owned these two aircraft. They are owned by the Irish leasing company CIT. So not sure what your sums are trying to prove.

  • Corey

    says:

    Thanks for the feed back guys it goes along way; plus it’s also good to get other peoples inside for these topics. Roger P if the RAAF did buy new KLC-30As based on the Airbus A330-200 242t MTOW upgrade wouldn’t that provide slightly greater capability with extra fuel off load and or more cargo to be transported? Also to everyone should The RAAF start using commercial cargo aircraft such as a A330F, Boeing 777 or 747-8F to transport cargo that isn’t needed in zone or an unpaved or shortened runway due to a natural disaster? Would the operating costs be less and would it be more efficient to transport types of cargo in Military owned commercial cargo aircraft freeing up the C-17s and C-130s which are tactical type aircraft? Another point I’d like everyone view on is if and when Australia will get the Airbus A400M to replace the C-130s?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Corey…
    The RAAF has in the past chartered commercial freighters to transport passengers and equipment. Back in the 2000’s during the height of our involvement in the Middle East, the ADF did charter a commercial A330 on a regular basis to transport smaller freight items and passengers. Also AN124s and other heavy lift aircraft were used to transport heavier items. I do remember though due to safety concerns with some of those heavy lift aircraft that ADF personnel were restricted from flying on them…? Correct me if I’m wrong on that one. However, I think that was before the RAAF had the C17 and KC30 in play or a least in significant numbers. Why when you have your own capability would you pay to charter other assets. In times when a surge capability is required I’m required I’m sure the ADF would use that same service again. Yes, the C130s and C17 have a tactical capability, but if they are not being used for a tactical mission at the time then they are there to be used. Now that the KC30 is in service, we have pretty much got all the bases covered with regard to transporting heavy/over sized cargo and passengers.
    On your second point, when is the C130 expected to reach ‘Life of Type’…? The ADF like any other force or company would have a planned date for replacement of their assets. These would obviously have efficiency and effectiveness factors built in. If the aircraft is still useful and has life left in it, why rush out replace it if you don’t need to. I’m sure there is a rough date set down in the future when the ADF will begin to plan, evaluate and procure a replacement for the J fleet. Until that time, unless there is a major change of plan or strategy, the ADF will continue to keep an eye on the development and operation of the A400M and any other potential future platforms. At the end of the day it all comes down to $$ and how wisely you spend it. Last time I looked there still weren’t any money trees growing in Canberra unfortunately. That was a book and a half…

  • Raymond

    says:

    Roger P – why not have the additional two KC-30’s to the new, upgraded standard? Commonality would still have been essentially the same as the original five, just better with improved specs, wouldn’t they?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Corey – Air Mobility Group has done extremely well these last few years and capability has been greatly improved. I can’t really see commercial cargo aircraft being added to the inventory as well.

    A400M’s replacing the C-130J’s? Not for a little while yet, if it happens. Don’t rule out that there’s a good chance a newer C-130 will be developed, continuing the long Hercules line in RAAF service.

  • John N

    says:

    I am really surprised by the angst shown by some over the Government’s decision to purchase second hand former QF airframes, obviously there is a cost element to this decision (and I’ll get to that later), but from a pure ‘commonality’ point of view when operating a relatively small fleet, it makes perfect sense to me.

    These two airframes came off the A-330 production line in 2007, the airframe for the first KC-30A was produced in 2006 and the remaining four were produced between 2008 and 2010, roll forward to today, 2015, and if the Government was to have ordered ‘new’ green airframes for MRTT conversion, which would probably mean airframes produced in 2016 or 2017, can you imagine all the subtle (but significant) and not so subtle engineering changes in that time?

    I’ll give you a good example with my car, that model was produced over a four year period and midway through production there was a major revision (not styling) but mechanical, and virtually every major mechanical component is NOT interchangeable, there is a very definite line drawn in the sand, before a certain VIN number its one type of part, after that VIN number it is a different part, doesn’t really matter to me, but the service department at the dealer has to maintain stock of ‘two’ types of those major components in its spare parts inventory, and I’m sure there is ‘premium’ that I am having to pay because of that too.

    Apply that to the KC-30A fleet, if the two extra airframes were new production, there would be a significant amount of engineering changes, how much extra spares holding would the RAAF have to contend with? I think it would be an expensive nightmare for it to contend with too. Of course if the Government had decided to ‘double’ the size of the fleet from 5 to 10, then having two ‘larger’ groups of subtypes would certainly be far more acceptable, but still, there would be additional overheads having to maintain two subtypes within the fleet.

    As to cost, and I mentioned this in an earlier post, these two KC-30A’s are going to cost A$408m or US$314.89m or E282.34m for the pair, that equates to A$204m or US$157.5m or E141.17m per airframe.

    And to repeat, back in 2012 when Airbus offered to modify an existing A330 airframe that it had used in its failed USAF tanker bid, the deal to supply that airframe and convert it to KC-30A configuration was for approximately A$200m, and with the high Aussie dollar at the time equated to US$212m.

    So while we might be paying a few million ( current value Australian) dollars more for each airframe compared to that offer, we are now paying approximately US$54.5m ‘less’ per airframe (approx. $US110m in total) than the deal offered back in 2012 which was to use an existing airframe from the same ‘vintage’ as the two ex QF birds. It’s almost as if we are getting these two airframe for virtually nothing and the vast majority of the expenditure will be the conversion costs.

    All sounds like a pretty good deal to me! (Now if we can only get Airbus to throw in that airframe they offered back in 2012, which is still owned by Airbus today, that will make the deal even sweeter!!).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    Great, John N – yes, the third extra airframe would bring the total to eight, which was the original RAAF requirement.

  • Bill

    says:

    One point that has been somewhat overlooked, I understood that the KC-30’s were built with A340 spec wings, I.e. there was the extra plumbing for fuel lines and the outboard engine mounts were used to hang the drogue pods from. Is the internal structure seemingly easy to add? And do the current KC-30 aircraft have the No. 1 & 4 engine feed tanks installed to supply the pods with fuel? If so then there may need to be some significant rework to make these A330’s the same as the KC-30’s

  • Red Barron

    says:

    I also recall the discounted Airbus MRTT deal back a few years ago included the deal around the naval version of the MH90’s over the Seahawks romeo’s.

  • Chris G

    says:

    Bill, I made a similar point in the last para 5 above 2JUL 1026K in my reply to Corey.

    Jimmy I was referring to the 2 RAAF BBJs used for VVIP work without mentioning them outright. They are owned by QANTAS DS now Northrop Grumman and leased to the RAAF. I do not have access too A330 build data, the MSNs are not mentioned in the 1JUL DEFMIN Press Release so everyone is guessing about the specific airframes at this stage. The BBJs can carry up to 30PAX according too the RAAF website over a similar unrefuelled range and cruising speed to the KC30A with VVIP load of ~100. The latter has a UARRSI so can be refuelled in flight unlike the BBJ. At least one of our recent PMs used a KC30A too transport the media.

    I find using a comment box especially frustrating to edit a post and constantly fighting the spell checker. I am not sure whether the last is AAs online or in my mobile and tablet.

  • Corey

    says:

    With the extra C-17s and possibly 2 future Airbus acj330 fitted with the KC- 30A refuelling boom receiver and counter measures system should the government and the RAAF look into getting more than the now 7 KC-30A aircraft especially that the RAAF have kept the boom refuelling receiver on the new F-35As we’re getting? I personally believe they RAAF should of developed a probe and droge refuelling system for the F -35A JSF based of the B and C models and removed the boom receiver.

  • John N

    says:

    Red Barron,

    It wasn’t the NH-90 vs MH-60R competition, that was prior, it was when the tender was out for the Caribou replacements, eg, C-295 vs C-27J.

    Airbus was trying to get the C-295 over the line ahead of the C-27J, and that was when they tried to sweeten the pot by throwing in the unsolicited offer of converting the spare A330 airframe into a KC-30A that they had for approx. A$200m and they were also sweetening the pot even further by offering to help keep the Brisbane conversion line open by providing other MRTT conversion work for other customers too, needless to say neither happened!

    Bill,

    As I’ve always understood it, the basic wing structure of standard ‘commercial’ A330’s and A340’s are common to each other, hence why the conversion of an A330 into a MRTT is a fairly straight forward process, from all that I’ve read and heard in the past, the wing of an A330 does in fact have the necessary reinforced mounting locations and provision for fuel piping for the A340’s two outboard engines and it’s those two outboard engine locations where the refuelling pods are mounted.

    Obviously the various bits of ‘plumbing will have to be fitted, as well as whatever other specific wing mods that are required during the conversion process, but it’s not going to be the significant rework of the wings that you might think.

    As long as all the conversion work comes in at the agreed price, which obviously includes the two ex QF birds, who really cares how much work Airbus is required to perform, but I’d be surprised if the conversion process was any different to the previous conversion processes, eg, obtain a ‘green’ A-330-200 off the production line and convert it!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Roger P

    says:

    hello all,
    thanks for comments Corey, John N etc. As John rightly points out there have been MANY components used in the airframe/engines upgraded or completely replaced in the time since the production of our original batch – I seem to remember Airbus announcing a wholesale production update to the A330 a couple of years ago. New airframes, would need a significantly different spares holding with the attendant costs.
    As to the increased capability of 2 new airframes, imagine Airforce are tasked with refuelling a flight of F/A18F’s at long range which is going to tax the offload limit of the tanker, you assign a new model from the fleet, it goes U/S at the last minute and needs to be replaced by an earlier model with lower offload capability – do you have enough capability to bring them home. Not worth the complexity/uncertainty.
    The end result will be 2 sub-fleets, 1 of 2 aircraft and 1 of 5 aircraft, NOT a fleet of 7 aircraft which is what we need. With a small fleet you need to be able to use any aircraft on any task, to properly manage your long term utilisation and plan maintenance.
    All A330’s are manufactured with the fuel line plumbing, mountings & hard-points for the engine 1 & 4 positions, which is why it is relatively easy to add the wing refuelling pods in those positions.
    A lot of the airframe modification is related to the significant strengthening for the ARBS Boom, extra wiring to accommodate the refuelling operator station in the cockpit, tanker-specific external lighting and the various monitoring cameras.
    The purchase price includes the tanker conversion cost as well as acquisition and refurb.
    BH… You are right, at one stage, all RAAF members were prohibited from flying on the leased AN124’s due to airworthiness concerns.

  • Gary

    says:

    Not wishing to get off topic; however, the bans on ADF personnel travelling on leased Russian aircraft due safety concerns related to the AN12s and IL76s that were predominantly used at that time. I am not away if they also applied to the AN124.

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