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Update: RAAF evolving expertise in air-to-air refuelling

US Navy pilots Lieutenant Commander Mark Lascara and Lieutenant Thomas Coffin observe a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A tanker air-refuelling their P-8A during an evolution for the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Certification Period in March 2022. (US Navy)

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is evolving its operational air-to-air refuelling (AAR) expertise to facilitate interoperability with allied countries.

In the course of three weeks, the RAAF carried out one novel AAR operation and is scheduled to carry out a second with Japan in April.

An Australian Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson told Janes that these refuelling clearances exercises will “allow the RAAF to deploy the KC-30A on a wide variety of exercises and operations, providing an essential air-to-air refuelling capability”.

On 20 March an Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) from the RAAF's No 33 Squadron carried out the first-ever operational AAR of a US Navy (USN) P-8A aircraft. The refuelling was conducted using the MRTT's Advanced Refuelling Boom System (ARBS).

The office of the commander of the USN's Pacific Fleet said in a statement that the AAR was co-ordinated to facilitate interoperability between the RAAF and USN forces. The ‘customer' aircraft was a P-8A of the USN's Patrol Squadron 47 (VP-47).

The USN added that AAR required the KC-30A and the P-8A to fly in close formation at 804 km/h (500 mph). It included “aligning the two planes so that the 55-foot-long refuelling boom can be connected to commence refuelling”, the statement said.

The RAAF is scheduled to conduct a second aerial refuelling compatibility confirmation test in April, with the Mitsubishi F-2A/Bs of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).

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