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More work to do on Air Force refueller

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November 10, 2011 ยท

The Federal Labor Government has more work to do before it claims success on the Air Force’s air-to-air refueller project, the Opposition has warned today.

“The Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) project remains a Project of Concern and is not yet fully operational,” Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel, Senator Gary Humphries said today.

“For Minister Clare to give the impression that all is well on this project is misleading to say the least.” Senator Humphries was referring to an announcement this week by Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare that the Royal Australian Air Force had accepted its third MRTT aircraft.

But the ‘acceptance’ to which the Minister referred is conditional on key technical difficulties being overcome.

The 2010/11 Annual Report for the Defence Materiel Organisation (p.26) states:

“The first two aircraft were contractually accepted during June 2011 in an initial configuration, conditional on remediation of a number of non-conformances of the military avionics and improvements to the Aerial Boom Refuelling System in particular boom handling qualities.”

The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshall Geoff Brown, told a Senate Committee in October that refuelling using the boom was possible but that it remains more difficult for pilots due to the technical problems.

“The boom improvement program is not due to be completed until late 2012. The Government has more work to do before it claims success on this project,” Senator Humphries said.

“Project AIR 5402 remains a Project of Concern.”


Project AIR 5402 - Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is valued at approximately $1.8 billion.

The aircraft being used to meet the requirements of the project is known as the KC-30A and is converted from the Airbus A330 which is used commercially. The KC-30A conducts two main types of air-to-air refuelling. The first is ‘pod’ refuelling which involves a hose and drogue and is used for fighter aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet. The second type of

refuelling uses a high-tech ‘boom’ and provides a much larger capacity for larger aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III and the Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft, Wedgetail.

Because the Multi Role Tanker enhances the capability of other aircraft platforms, it is a strategic priority for Defence.

The aircraft that have been accepted in the initial configuration have not received their initial green light for operations, known as Initial Operational Capability (IOC). IOC is not expected until late 2012.

Final Operational Capability (FOC) for the MRTT is not scheduled until the end of 2013