12/09/2014: Australia’s Air Task Group (ATG) consisting of six RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft continue to support Operation OKRA with missions in Iraq.
The ATG comprises around 400 RAAF personnel who have deployed to the Middle East. Australia’s efforts are in response to a request for assistance by the Iraqi Government in combating ISIL terrorists.
Operation OKRA is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international effort to combat the ISIL terrorist threat in Iraq.
Australia’s contribution is being closely coordinated with the Iraqi government, Gulf nations and a broad coalition of international partners.
Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence : 11/14/14
The well-known Australian defense journalist Andrew McLaughlin has provided a look at how the RAAF views its new tanker, which highlights its key role in self-deployment of the RAAF at a very long distance.
The former manager of the transition team to induct the Airbus Defence & Space KC-30A (A330) multi-role tanker transport into RAAF service, AIRCDRE Noel Derwort has welcomed the resulting capability whilst on operations in the Middle East.
Moving to the Commander of the Aerospace Operational Support Group (AOSG) in 2011, and now posted as Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) 633, AIRCDRE Derwort has seen first-hand the capability provided by the KC-30A deployed to Al Minhad Air Base (AMAB) in the UAE as part of the Operation Okra Air Task Group (ATG). Also deployed are eight F/A-18F Super Hornets, and an E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft.
“I was the director of the KC-30A MRTT Transition Team from 2007 to 2011 and subsequently Commander of Aerospace Operational Support Group (AOSG) which was involved in conducting operational flight tests for the KC-30A MRTT in 2012,” AIRCDRE Derwort said in a Defence release, adding that for the first time he “was able to fly on the aircraft was on a combat mission over Iraq.”
“It was amazing to experience and see the product of everything we have done over all these years,” he added. “Watching how the crew operated and just seeing their professionalism, working with other aircraft, was remarkable. The guys have done an exceptional job to make sure the aircraft is effective which is demonstrated by it being here.”
The KC-30A has had a troubled introduction to service due to delays in certifying the new advanced refuelling boom systems (ARBS), problems with the wing-mounted hose and drogue pods, and support and sustainment issues.
Recent progress in the development testing of new software and hardware modifications have been encouraging, and the RAAF’s five KC-30As are expected to be cleared for ARBS operations in 2015.
As of November 16, the Operation Okra ATG KC-30A had offloaded more than 2.5 million pounds of fuel since late September to RAAF F/A-18Fs, and coalition fighters such as French Rafales and US Marine Corps AV-8Bs.