The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Airbus signed a research agreement on 2nd March to further develop the capabilities of RAAF KC-30A multirole tanker transport aircraft.
The agreement strengthens the industrial partnership between Airbus and Australia’s defence force, and will help to define the evolution of the KC-30A fleet as it reaches operational maturity and expand its capabilities.
The agreement’s first milestone is the joint development of the automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) concept, which represents a major step forward in in-flight refuelling. Automating boom refuelling contacts reduces potential risk by minimising operator workload, and increases operational efficiency by cutting the time for each contact. The system requires no additional equipment in the receiver aircraft.
Initial approach and tracking of the receiver is performed manually from the A330 MRTT’s console. Once the image processing system acquires the receiver and the receptacle position, the operator can use the system aid, allowing the boom to automatically follow the receptacle. Final extension of the boom’s telescopic beam is manually performed by its operator to make and maintain contact.
The RAAF and Airbus have successfully performed proximity trials, with physical contacts planned for the near future.
The RAAF recently achieved Final Operational Capability (FOC) for the KC-30A fleet, which has already offloaded over 74 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft over Irak, including RAAF F/A-18A Hornets and E-7A Wedgetails, as part of Operation OKRA.
Based at RAAF Base Amberley, the fleet comprises five KC-30A MRTT aircraft. The first KC-30A arrived in Australia in 2011, achieving initial operational capability in 2013. An additional two aircraft are currently being acquired and are due for delivery in late 2017 and late 2019 respectively.