On the 27th of February 2013, members of the media at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, Victoria were given a unique opportunity to go on board a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) on a flight to refuel two F/A-18A Hornets of 77 Squadron, arriving from their base in Williamtown, New South Wales for the airshow. The mid-air refueling took place in the skies over Victoria's Gippsland region and the Bass Straits.
This publicity flight was a unique in the sense that it was the first time media have been invited on board a KC-30 conducting a refueling mission. About 30 media personnel boarded the KC-30, serial number A39-003 and operating under the callsign DRAGON 21, from the civil aviation terminal at Avalon Airport and departed under leaden skies at approximately 1400. After a short flight, we rendezvoused with VIKING 61 and 62, a two-ship Hornet flight over the East Sale Restricted Airspace where the Hornets joined up on the KC-30's left wing before "plugging into" the refueling baskets trailing from the HDUs (Hose Drum Unit) mounted on each of the tanker's wingtips.
At this point, I would like to add that I would have been perfectly happy if the Hornets were regular "line birds" in standard squadron livery, however the fact that both Hornets were painted in various special commemorative schemes was an added (and much appreciated) bonus. To top it off, both "receivers" were carrying a mix of AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) and 500-lb Joint Direct Attack Munitions along with wing tanks and Elta EL/L-8222 ECM pods. The Hornets and tanker and receivers circled among the clouds while the media pack had a field day shooting photos and video. After a few minutes, refueling was complete and both Hornets slid over to the tanker's starboard wing before breaking off towards Avalon, landing just before the KC-30, which touched down at 1505 local.
The RAAF has five MRTTs on strength with 33 Sqn at RAAF Amberley, with one aircraft currently with manufacturer EADS conducting boom certification which is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
The Base Leg would like to express our deepest appreciation to the RAAF, our crew and Eamon Hamilton, Public Affairs for the RAAF's Air Lift Group for making this amazing event happen. A video of the highlights of the flight can be assessed below (available in HD/720p)