australian aviation logo

RAAF KC-30 completes F-16 refuelling trials

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 21, 2015

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) during air-to-air refuelling trials with a United States Air Force (USAF) F-16 fighter.A RAAF KC-30A tanker transport has completed inflight refuelling trials with a US Air Force F-16.

The seven flights from Edwards Air Force Base, between December 3 and 15, saw the KC-30A conduct 444 ‘contacts’ with the F-16, offloading over 25 tonnes of fuel, and are a key element in achieving conditional clearance for the tanker transport to refuel the F-16.

“Clearing the KC-30A to refuel the F-16 is a major milestone in enabling our aerial refuelling operators to refuel other boom-capable aircraft on combined operations and exercises,” 86 Wing KC-30A transition and receiver clearance manager Wing Commander Grant Kelly said.

“In early 2016, we will return to the United States to conduct further clearance test flights with the F-16 and other combat aircraft,” WGCDR Kelly said.

“There are a number of different F-16 variants in service with the USAF and other foreign air forces which will require additional refuelling clearances.”

The F-16 refuelling was planned and conducted by an integrated test team that included the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU).

“ARDU will continue to operate as part of the integrated test team to analyse the results from testing so that ultimately a safe and effective operational clearance can be delivered,” lead ARDU flight test engineer for the F-16 refuelling trials, Flight Lieutenant Ben Liersch, said.

The F-16 is the world’s most popular fighter, with around 2,500 in service, including over 950 with the US Air Force.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) with a United States Air Force (USAF) F-16 fighter.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comments (7)

  • Ben


    Shouldn’t we focus initially on our own types before we branch out? I’d have thought the C17 would have been a focus initially, especially given the new Antarctic operations trials. I’d have thought a well placed tanker could have allowed the C17 to depart Hobart with a full load on (being ZFW limited not performance limited) and reduced fuel and tanker on the way down and back. I’d imagine once airborne MTOW isn’t a factor any more as the additional fuel would just be reducing the bending moment in the wings, you’d just have to be under MLW prior to reaching the Antarctic. This could also facilitate taking the payload directly from the originating location without having to ship it to HBA first.

  • marc


    @ ben
    These people are professionals and know what theyre doing.

  • Law



    The Classic and Super Hornets have already been done. KC-30 to KC-30, F-35, E-7A, AV-8 and now F-16.

    Early next year, there will be a round of testing done in the US to certify Australian, Italian and UAE tankers on a variety of US aircraft including C-17. Apparently this requires a specially instrumented C-17 for the testing, which is likely partly the reason they haven’t done it yet.

    The other part of the reason is probably that the C-17 has some of the longest legs around and has the least need for aerial refueling so it also makes sense to leave it to last. Antarctic operations aren’t really a pressing concern, it’s just really nice to have.

    The later rounds of testing in the US will also qualify it for F-15, A-10 and possibly even B-1. The US is pushing hard for it’s partners to take up some of the support slack and hosting a training event like this where they provide an established training location, the aircraft and presumably foot most of the bill is all good news the RAAF.

  • PAUL


    Good points Law. yes C17 has very long legs & doesnt suffer from point of no return issues like other types flying to Antarctica. Which is why it would be good for RNZAF as their B757 got caught out with bad weather upon landing & had passed the PNR. All with a Govt minister on board.! Hopefully A400 has similar legs as C17. Nice pictures also – KC30 capability would be great if RNZAF ever got F16’s..

  • Bill


    I suspect that the foreign military types are “up the list” compared to the C-17 so these fighter types can be refueled in the Middle East operating area. The C-17 not being a top priority indicates that the missions it is flying wouldn’t benefit to the same extent as having the KC-30 being able to slot into the USAF’s fueling ops over Iraq, without type restrictions on receiver aircraft.

  • Jason


    The issue with the C-17 refuelling ops is maintaining sufficient currency amongst RAAF C-17 crew due to the aircraft rarely requiring A2A refuelling. Better to sign off on a type that will require it more often than not, than one which will rarely require it.

    What I find more interesting is the fact that the USAF did its own trials rather than have faith in Airbus’ own MRTT trials with Portuguese F-16s using RAAF KC-30s.

  • Corey


    Glad to see the KC-30 getting additional aircraft type refuelling. I really don’t understand why the RAAF don’t have a fleet of 12-24 Kc-30s in the fleet. Could the RAAF buy additional KC-30s like they are now @ $200 million each? for an additional 5 to what they have in fleet and on order it would only cost $1 billion

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.