• A RAAF KC-30A refuels a USAF F-22 Raptor during trials at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
    A RAAF KC-30A refuels a USAF F-22 Raptor during trials at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Defence

A RAAF KC-30A tanker has completed air-to-air refuelling trials with USAF F-22 Raptors.

The trials were held at Edwards Air Force Base in California in August and September.

Trials were conducted over the course of eight flights with the F-22 in different load configurations to ensure it could be safely refuelled from the KC-30A’s boom system.

Completion of the trials allowed for the release of formal instructions on how to refuel an F-22 from a KC-30A, enhancing interoperability between the RAAF and USAF.

Jeremy Sequeira, the Flight Test Lead at RAAF Base Amberley, said the trial posed few challenges aside from the highly sensitive nature of the F-22.

“Overall there were few real issues as the KC-30A and F-22 are fairly mature platforms for aerial refuelling,” Sequeira said.

“Much of the lead up to the trials was spent planning to ensure we only hit the essential points in the trial to minimise the impact on the high-tempo KC-30A fleet.”

The F-22 is the USAF's air superiority platform, and was barred from export under the Obey Amendment in 1997 - allegedly amidst fears that Israel would transfer associated technologies to Russia or China.

The aircraft has since seen service in Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Australia, deploying to RAAF Tindal last year for Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) activities under the US Force Posture Initiatives.

It has also played a role in operations in Syria, primarily escorting other aircraft to deter intervention by the Syrian government’s sophisticated air defence system.

ADM Comment: The Raptor joins a growing list of aircraft capable of refuelling from a RAAF KC-30A, including Russian-made Sukhoi fighters that deployed to Australia as part of the Indian Air Force’s participation in Exercise Pitch Black.

One notable omission however is the Boeing F-15 Eagle, which is operated in significant numbers by the USAF in the Middle East and around the world, as well as by partner nations such as Singapore. While early trials between an RAAF KC-30A and USAF F-15 were conducted in the US some years ago, they were never completed. ADM understands that this was due to the location of the UARSSI on the F-15's 'shoulder', which resulted in the boom being affected by turbulent airflow around the canopy of the receiving aircraft.  

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