A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft has used its air‑to‑air refuelling boom for the first time on operations while refuelling a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail last week during a Coalition mission above Iraq.
The air-to-air boom refuelling process involved two large aircraft, military versions of the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737-700, approaching within metres of each other while in flight and transferring fuel via a manoeuvrable pipe, known as a boom, which extends back from the rear of the KC-30A. This type of refuelling involves use of the AAR boom at the rear of the aircraft, rather than the wingtip AAR drogues used to refuel smaller aircraft equipped with an AAR probe.
Commander of the Australian Air Task Group, Air Commodore Stuart Bellingham, said establishing and proving the operational boom refuelling capability was yet another in a long list of accomplishments by the Australian Defence Force team in the Middle East.
“Operational boom refuelling by the KC-30A last week was another significant achievement for both Air Force and the Air Task Group,” AIRCDRE Bellingham said.
“Both of the aircraft involved, the KC-30A and the E-7A Wedgetail, are two of the newest and most advanced aircraft operating in the fight against Daesh.
“Being able to use the KC-30A boom on operations to refuel an aircraft such as the Wedgetail is a force multiplier for Australian Air Power and Coalition air operations.
“Proving this mode of air-to-air refuelling adds to the list of aircraft types that our KC-30A can now support, contributing to another in-demand capability of the coalition air campaign.”
The Air Refuelling Operator was responsible for remotely manoeuvring the boom from a control panel on the KC-30A flight deck.
“As the receiving aircraft approaches the rear of the KC-30A, it’s my job to communicate with the pilot and manoeuvre the boom using two control sticks to ensure that a solid and safe connection is made to the receiving aircraft,” the Air Refuelling Operator said.
“To refuel the Wedgetail we manoeuvred the boom into a refuelling receptacle located just above and aft of the aircraft cockpit while moving at over 750km/h, and at a height of 25,000 feet, and then started transferring the fuel.
“During this mission we transferred 34,750 pounds of fuel in about 15 minutes—the equivalent of refuelling 300 family sedans at a rate of less than three seconds per car.
“We look forward to this becoming a normal part of our operations to assist the Wedgetail’s vital mission of providing airborne early warning, command and control above Iraq and Syria.”
A KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail, along with six F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, are deployed with the Australian Air Task Group as part of Operation OKRA. The Air Task Group conducts precision strike, close air support, air-to-air refuelling and airborne command and control in Iraq and Syria as part of the international coalition formed to disrupt and degrade Daesh.