Media release photo: Senior Airman Mackenzie Cooper.

The inaugural KC-30A multi-role transport tanker (MRTT) of the Australian Defence Force has concluded its mission in Spain, having undergone significant enhancements in communications and cyber capabilities. This aircraft, a modified Airbus A330 serving air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift roles for the Royal Australian Air Force through No. 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland, has successfully completed a two-year Heavy Air Lift Systems Program Office (HALSPO) initiative.

The upgrades encompass secure high-frequency and very high-frequency radios, encryption devices, and tactical data link improvements. Anticipated benefits include enhanced communication safety and efficiency, improved command, control, and situational awareness, along with a substantial 300% increase in KC-30A data throughput.

Group Captain Brent Taylor, Officer Commanding 86 Wing, emphasised the significance of these advancements in augmenting combat air mobility capabilities. He noted that the modernization efforts would enable better integration and operations with other Defence and allied aircraft.

The rest of the Royal Australian Air Force’s KC-30A fleet is slated to undergo similar upgrades by 2025.

The KC-30A MRTT is equipped with two air-to-air refuelling systems: an advanced refuelling boom system on the tail and all-electric refuelling pods under each wing. These systems are controlled by an air refuelling operator in the cockpit using 2D and 3D screens. The aircraft can transfer over 100 tonnes of fuel to various platforms, including F/A-18A/B Hornets, F/A-18F Super Hornets, E/A-18G Growlers, E-7A Wedgetails, C-17A Globemaster III, P-8A, and other KC-30As.

Group Captain Russell Barton highlighted the challenge of integrating and adapting U.S. technology to a European platform during the project that now ensures enduring relevance, reliability, and state-of-the-art capability.

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