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RAAF KC-30 completes F-35 refuelling trials

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 2, 2015

KC-30 Tanker Test fuel transfer to F-35AA RAAF KC-30A tanker transport has returned from the US after the successful completion of refuelling trials with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Operating from Edwards Air Force Base, California the KC-30 made a total of 479 ‘dry’ and 24 ‘wet’ contacts with a US Air Force F-35A, transferring more than 95 tonnes of fuel using its 18-metre-long Advanced Refuelling Boom System (ARBS).

In all the aircraft flew 12 sorties between September 23 and October 26.

The KC-30A was crewed by personnel from 33 Squadron, while a flight test team from the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, supported by flight test instrumentation engineers from the Aerospace Systems Engineering Squadron, was integrated within the USAF Test Centre to work on a dynamic test program, Defence stated.

“These trials are another important step in building KC-30A capability and the results will inform the training practices of current and future RAAF personnel on both aircraft types,” KC-30A Transition and Receiver Clearance Manager Wing Commander Grant Kelly said.


“Air-to-air refuelling will be an important ‘force multiplier’ for the F-35A fleet, considerably boosting their range and endurance, or allowing them to carry bigger payloads.”

Under current plans Australia is acquiring 72 F-35As to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornet fleet.

Future KC-30 boom refueling trials are planned with the C-17 Globemaster transport and the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft (which has been selected to partially replace the RAAF’s AP-3C Orions).

The KC-30’s ARBS boom had a troubled early life – during flight testing a KC-30 bound for the RAAF lost its boom in an incident while refuelling a Portuguese F-16 in January 2011.

But in March the then Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) announced that the KC-30 acquisition project – AIR 5402 – had been removed from its Projects of Concern list, after an extensive development and testing program resolved issues with the ARBS.

33SQN operates five KC-30As from RAAF Base Amberley. Two more KC-30As, to be converted from ex Qantas A330-200 airliners, are due to join the RAAF KC-30A fleet in 2018.

KC-30 Tanker Test fuel transfer to F-35A

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Comments (6)

  • Corey


    Our Australian F-35s should be fitted with the probe and drogue refuelling system and not the boom as the boom can not transfer the fuel at the same high rate with can with the C-17, E-7 AEW&C, KC-30A and soon to be P-8A compared to the F-35, F-15 and F-16s. Also it would allow 2 fighters to be refuelled at one unlike the boom which can only refuel one aircraft at a time. Also when the RAAF buy the A400M they could refuel fighters and helicopters as it has been designed as a tanker capable aircraft. I have come to that conclusion with the research I have done. Also it wouldn’t be that hard or expensive to remove the boom receiver and fit a prove receiver on the F-35As as it has already been designed and tested on the F-35B and C models.

  • Raymond


    Armchair expert on too much Red Bull and red cordial at it again.

  • Jason


    Just three minor problems with your post Corey…

    – The F-35A is not available with the probe because there’s a gun in that space.

    – The boom transfers fuel at twice the speed of the hose & drogue.

    – The A400M tanker has been put on hold due to aerodynamic issues off the trailing edge of wing.

    Otherwise you nailed it!

  • Mick181


    Who says Australia will buy the A400, cant see Australia buying any more large Tpt ac until the mid 2020s(to replace the C-130J). Far to much other expensive equipment needed.
    The field at that time could be much more open. Including C-130s,A400s,C-2s,KC-390s & whatever the Americans are developing to replace the huge fleet of very old C-130s they will need, Included amongst the possibilities are a 4 engine tilt rotor.
    Don’t right off the possibility of a life extension on the C-130Js, to give the next generation of Air lifters a chance to mature.
    Once all the ordered C-27s and KC-30s are delivered Australia will have a very modern Air lift fleet.

  • Mick181


    The best place on the net to learn about military matters is Defencetalk.com, do yourself a favour and go there. You will learn a huge amount about why we buy what we buy and why we don’t buy some things. Most of the senior posters are people who are involved in the military either in uniform or working for Defence company’s.

  • John N


    Corey, mate, seriously?

    Where do I begin…….

    Our version of the F-35 is the ‘standard’ USAF version, the most numerous version, the cheapest and easily supportable version, once you start mucking around with it and produce a ‘hybrid’ version, then costs go through the roof, it becomes more expensive and difficult to maintain.

    If you hadn’t noticed, we have been buying a lot of US ‘off the shelf’ kit lately, and we have not been making major modifications, therefore those aircraft have been able to enter service a lot quicker and will also be part of a ‘much larger’ supply, support and sustainment chain, does that make sense to you??

    If anything I would rather see the KC-30A fleet increased from the planned seven airframes to at least 10 airframes, but that’s a whole different question.

    As far as the A400M is concerned, yes it might eventually be considered as a C-130J replacement when the time comes, but we will also need to wait and see what the likes of LM and Boeing might come up with at that time, the A400M as a tanker in RAAF service? Don’t think so, let it be a transport and have the KC-30A look after AAR for the RAAF and our Coalition partners.

    As I understand it, as mentioned above, the A400M will not be suitable for AAR of helicopters, so forget that idea.


    John N

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