Communications, mission system upgrade for RAAF KC-30A MRTTs

Airbus announced on October 12 that it has been selected to develop a communications and mission system upgrade for the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet.

This upgrade covers a retrofit package, comprising new and additional communications capabilities and enhanced mission systems for Australia’s A330 MRTT fleet, which is known as the KC-30A in RAAF service. The work intends to fulfil the air arm’s interoperability needs under its new operational requirements and bring its KC-30A fleet up to the same standard as the latest A330 MRTTs. Additionally, Airbus will provide related data packs and support to ensure that the upgrade is featured on the RAAF’s existing A330 MRTT simulators and training systems.

KC-30A [Commonwealth of Australia - Department of Defence/Cpl Ben Dempster] #1
A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) in flight during a training sortie on January 21, 2015. Commonwealth of Australia - Department of Defence/Cpl Ben Dempster

In a press release, Airbus stated that the upgrade work will be split across two contracts. The company outlined that “Phase 1 will see Airbus carry out the design and systems development and integration ahead of the critical design review maturity gate.

“Phase 2 will see Airbus install and deliver a prototype KC-30 aircraft for use in the certification and qualification process, ahead of finalising and supplying the modification kits for [the] entire fleet. Subsequent retrofit to the remainder of the fleet will be under customer responsibility,” it added.

The RAAF currently operates seven KC-30As under No 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. It conducted its first operational flight with the air arm in September 2011 and it achieved initial operational capability on February 26, 2013. The KC-30A is fitted with two types of air-to-air refuelling systems: an advanced refuelling boom system mounted under the tail of the aircraft and a pair of all-electric hose-and-drogue pods under each wing.