Making its debut in a multi-national exercise, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed its KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport to RAAF Base Townsville for Exercise Pitch Black 12.
Measuring 58 metres in length and with a wingspan of 60 metres, the KC-30A is a heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner designed to perform the airborne refuelling role, and is the RAAF’s largest and newest aircraft.
Wing Commander Geoff Fox, Commanding Officer of No. 33 Squadron, said this deployment was a step towards bringing the KC-30A to an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) later this year.
“While we have a limited level of involvement in Pitch Black, we are conducting this deployment away from our home base to help prepare for future exercises and operations,” Wing Commander Fox said.
For its missions, the KC-30A will transit to the Northern Territory skies to conduct refuelling with aircraft in the exercise. The aircraft will unreel a hose-and-drogue from a wing-mounted pod, which is ‘plugged’ by a refuelling probe on a RAAF F/A-18 Hornet – with both aircraft travelling in formation at more than 500km/h.
“We can take off from a base and fly to a position 1800 kilometres away, and remain in that airspace for four hours with 50 tonnes of fuel available for other aircraft,” Wing Commander Fox said.
“In a big country like Australia, we are an extremely important capability for helping other aircraft to do their job.”
“Declaration of IOC later this year will allow us to conduct hose-and-drogue refuelling and strategic transport missions, before we move on to boom-refuelling.”
“Future Pitch Black exercises will see the KC-30A refuelling more aircraft, including the Super Hornet, Wedgetail, and some of our international partners.”
The first two KC-30As were delivered to Air Force in mid-2011. Delivery of all five aircraft will be completed by late 2012. The KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport carries around 100 tonnes of fuel most of which can be offloaded to other aircraft.