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RAAF refuels South Korea fighter jet for first time

A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport refuels a KF-16U Fighting Falcon aircraft of the Republic of Korea Air Force during Exercise ‘Vigilant Storm 23'. (Republic of Korea Air Force)

Weeks after signing a formal arrangement to co-operate on air-to-air refuelling, Australia and South Korea have conducted the first aerial refuel exercise involving military aircraft from both countries.

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said on 15 November that a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) of No 33 Squadron had provided refuelling support to Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) KF-16U fighter aircraft. The DoD said that the support occurred during Exercise ‘Vigilant Storm 23'.

This follows a DoD announcement on 3 November that Seoul and Canberra had agreed to co-operate on air-to-air refuelling in September 2022.

The signatories of the agreement were Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, air commander Australia, and Lieutenant General Park Ha Sik, commander, RoKAF Operation Command, according to the DoD. In a statement, AVM Goldie said that the agreement was an important step to enhance the partnership between the two air forces.

“This helps further ensure that our two air forces can support one another in the skies, during exercises and training activities and on any future operations,” he said. “The transfer of fuel when required to sustain and prolong our presence in the air is critical to our aircraft being able to successfully project air power.”

Exercise ‘Vigilant Storm 23' was conducted between 28 October and 5 November. According to the DoD, the exercise is routinely held by the United States and South Korea to strengthen combined air operations. The DoD added that the exercise in 2022 involved 240 aircraft, which conducted 1,600 sorties.

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