The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has completed air-to-air refuelling (AAR) trials with Boeing F-15J/DJ Eagle fighters from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) for the first time.
The recent trials – which were held in Japan from March 29 to April 26 – involved a single RAAF-operated Airbus KC-30A (A330-203MRTT) Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) using its Advanced Refuelling Boom System to connect with the Japanese F-15J/DJs in flight. During these trials, a total of 11 sorties and 325 contacts were made between the aircraft across a range of manoeuvres and in different day and night conditions. The engineering data gathered through these trials will ultimately allow the RAAF to authorise and train its KC-30A aircrews to refuel allied F-15 Eagle fighters in the future.
Commenting on how these trials will further enhance military cooperation between the RAAF and JASDF, Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie – Air Commander Australia (ACAUST) – said: “Cooperation between our air forces is dependent on overcoming great distances, and air-to-air refuelling is an essential part of how we accomplish this. In 2022, we conducted similar trials with JASDF F-2A fighter aircraft, which enabled their participation in Exercise Pitch Black 22 in the Northern Territory.
“The success of these latest refuelling trials reflects our commitment to building on our deep and enduring relationship, understanding each other’s strengths and further elevating our interoperability. This cooperation and mutual understanding is an essential part of ensuring a secure, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” he added.
The RAAF has operated the A330-203-based KC-30A MRTT since the type entered operational service in June 2011. In total, Australia received seven KC-30As, all of which are based at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland and operated by No 33 Squadron. The KC-30A is fitted with two types of AAR systems: an Advanced Refuelling Boom System mounted on the tail of the aircraft; and a pair of all-electric refuelling hose-and-drogue pods under each wing. These systems are controlled by an Air Refuelling Operator in the cockpit, who can view refuelling on 2D and 3D screens. It can carry a fuel load of 111 tonnes and transfer part of that to compatible aircraft, including other KC-30As.