The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has inked an agreement with Airbus and Northrop Grumman Australia to increase the readiness of the service’s KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet by enhancing maintenance support.
“Northrop Grumman is committed to help grow Australia’s defence capability,” said Christine Zeitz, General Manager of Northrop Grumman Asia Pacific.
“The signing of the KC-30A Sovereign Industrial Capability Charter underscores the collective responsibility that we share to keep them mission ready,” added Zeitz.
The charter calls for reduced turnaround-times and increased KC-30A aircraft availability by boosting supply chain resilience and Australian industry capability. According to Northrop Grumman, this will be achieved by establishing and supporting workshops that improve maintenance and repair infrastructure in the country.
“The charter also establishes full transparency for the exchange of information amongst the parties to proactively identify and establish opportunities for greater sovereign maintenance support for the fleet,” the company said in its statement. “Priorities include the creation of an Airbus Boom Maintenance Repair and Optimisation Centre in Australia as well as local implementation of future KC-30A upgrades.”
The KC-30A is based on the successful Airbus A330-200 commercial aircraft, of which more than 1,700 aircraft are operating worldwide. The KC-30A can carry a fuel load of 111 tonnes and transfer part of that load to compatible aircraft, including other KC-30As, using an advanced refuelling boom system mounted on the tail of the aircraft as well as a pair of all-electric refuelling hose-and-drogue pods under each wing.
The aircraft also features advanced communication and navigation systems and an electronic self-protection system to protect it from surface-to-air missile threats.
The RAAF acquired the first of its seven KC-30As, which is not only capable of performing air-to-air refuelling operations but can also carry 45 tonnes of palletised cargo, in 2011. An eighth and ninth aircraft were initially under consideration under the 2016 Defence White Paper, but the plan appear to be scrapped under the 2020 Force Structure plan, which outlined a replacement project for new tanker aircraft worth A$17.5-26.2 billion that is set to progress into the 2040s.
The KC-30A fleet is based at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland and operated by 33 Squadron.
by Jr Ng