The RAAF’s Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) deployment to the Middle East under Operation Okra recently marked a major milestone of 100 million pounds of fuel offloaded during air-to-air refuelling operations in less than four years.
Since September 2014, the RAAF had maintained a single KC-30A from Amberley-based 33SQN in the Persian Gulf region to support an RAAF Air Task Group and coalition aircraft on combat operations up into Iraq and Syria.
Initially part of a larger ATG contingent comprising RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and F/A-18A classic Hornets, and an E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, the fighters were withdrawn at the start of 2018 leaving the KC-30A and E-7A in place, and are rotated back to Australia every few months for maintenance.
“The KC-30A has been a significant force multiplier for the Air Force and has proven itself over Iraq as part of Operation OKRA,” new Chief of Joint Operations AIRMSHL Mel Hupfeld said in a statement. “Just one KC-30A can support the deployment of four fighter aircraft over 5,000km and has the versatility to refuel a range of different aircraft types.
“With the professionalism and operational effects we bring to the global coalition, the Australian KC-30A contribution is very well regarded amongst the coalition partners,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld added.
Some of those different types include French Dassault Rafales, UK Eurofighter Typhoons, USAF F-16s, and US Navy and USMC F/A-18s and AV-8B Harriers, as well as large transports and other tankers.
For context, a single F/A-18F Super Hornet has an internal fuel capacity of about 13,500 pounds. Therefore, 100,000,000 pounds of fuel is the equivalent of about 7,400 Super Hornets from empty.
Allowing for smaller offloads and smaller aircraft types, it’s fair to assume the RAAF KC-30As deployed to Operation Okra have conducted well over 10,000 successful air-to-air refuellings in the four years or approximately 1,440 days of their deployment, a remarkable achievement.
This article was first published by our partner Australian Defence Business Review on August 13, 2018 and is republished with their permission.