The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has completed air-to-air boom refuelling trials that saw the E-7A Wedgetail refuelling from the KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport for the first time.
The trials, which were conducted in airspace off the coast of northern New South Wales between June 1 and 13, were overseen by the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit. During testing, the aircraft conducted 118 ‘dry’ contacts and six ‘wet’ contacts.
“Air-to-air refuelling considerably increases the Wedgetail’s range and endurance, allowing us to provide command and control and air battlespace management over longer periods,” said Wing Commander Christian Martin, commanding officer of 2 Squadron, which operates the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control platform.
“This has been demonstrated in the Middle East region under Operation OKRA [in Iraq] where RAAF Wedgetails have used foreign air force tankers to fly extended sorties. Once the trial results are assessed, an initial clearance is expected to be granted to allow Wedgetail crews to begin refuelling training flights with the KC-30A.”
Squadron Leader Ben Goring, executive officer of 33 Squadron, stated that air-to-air refuelling required both aircraft to fly in close formation at more than 500 km/h.
“The KC-30A deploys the 17-metre-long Aerial Refuelling Boom System from the aft fuselage, which is guided by an air refuelling operator on the KC-30A into a refuelling receptacle on the Wedgetail,” SQNLDR Goring said.
The RAAF achieved the first refuelling boom contact using the KC-30A on May 13. The KC-30A has already been cleared to refuel the RAAF’s Hornets and Super Hornets using its hose-and-drogue refuelling pods.