australian aviation logo

In pictures: RAAF KC-30A refuels Japanese F-2 in mid-air

written by Adam Thorn | May 3, 2022

A RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) undertakes an air-to-air refuelling operation with a Japanese Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jet. (Defence)

A RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft has refuelled a Japanese Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jet in mid-air.

The flight test, conducted in April over the course of three weeks, aimed to ensure mechanical compatibility between the aircraft, while also ensuring they can be flown safely in a range of configurations and lighting conditions.

The KC-30A serves as an air-to-air refuelling aircraft that also provides the RAAF with airlift capabilities. It was first flown by RAAF in September 2011 and Australia has a fleet of six, operated by No. 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.

Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia, said the feat represented a key milestone in building defence ties between Australia and Japan, helping to strengthen interoperability.

“This is the first time that a RAAF aircraft has refuelled a JASDF (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) aircraft, and will help build the special strategic partnership between Australia and Japan,” AVM Goldie said.

The successful air-to-air refuelling exercise is expected to facilitate Japan’s participation in Exercise Pitch Black 22 — a biennial warfare exercise hosted by the RAAF that is set to take place in the Northern Territory in August and September this year.

“Working together will ensure we can continue to uphold and reinforce a secure, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific region,” AVM Goldie added.


The RAAF flight test team has experience with KC-30A refuelling trials in Australia, the US and Singapore.

“The flight test program represents two years of close co-operation between our own Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), and the JASDF Air Development and Test Wing (ADTW),” AVM Goldie said.

This is the latest of a number of collaborations between the RAAF and JASDF, which has included work in response to natural disasters in Tonga and Australia.

Moreover, the counterparts trained alongside each other during Exercise Cope North in Guam, and Exercise Bushido Guardian in Japan.

The RAAF is also building relationships with other regional partners including Vietnam.

The KC-30A was selected in April 2004 to fulfil Project AIR 5402 for five aircraft equipped with wing-mounted pods for hose and drogue refuelling and a fuselage centreline refuelling boom. The acquisition contract for the aircraft was signed with then EADS CASA in December 2004.

The MRTT is a substantially modified military derivative of the Airbus A330-200 airliner, which can carry a fuel load of more than 100 tonnes, and transfer part of that load to compatible aircraft.

The KC-30A MRTT can remain 1,800 kilometres from its home base, with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours. In its transport role, the aircraft is capable of carrying 270 passengers and can accommodate 34,000 kilograms of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.

In 2018, Air Force’s then Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said the reliability and large air-to-air refuelling capability of the KC-30A has added tangible value to the Australian and coalition forces, with their large demand for aerial refuelling.

“The KC-30A has been a significant force multiplier for the Air Force and has proven itself over Iraq as part of Operation Okra,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

Comment (1)

  • Damian


    Doesn’t the RAAF have a fleet of 7?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year

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