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Allies in the sky

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport refuels an Edwards B-52 Stratofortress in the skies over California this past September.

The test sortie was conducted by members of the RAAF Air Warfare Centre Aircraft Research and Development Unit, 86 Wing and the 418th and 419th Flight Test Squadrons.

Air-to-air refueling of a B-52 significantly increases the aircraft's range, making it capable of carrying heavy payloads further.

Tests with the B-52 are one part of the RAAF Air Warfare Centre's Flight Test Program. The ongoing testing with the KC-30A is part of a Coalition Tanker Aerial Refueling Certification effort. The first flight in the series of tests was Dec. 3, 2015, when the KC-30 refueled an Edwards F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The Australian KC-30 is a multi-role tanker transport based on the Airbus A330 commercial aircraft, which has been militarized, turned into a tanker, and has 270 passenger seats.

According to the RAAF, the Australian military operates five KC-30A MRTTs with two more joining the fleet in 2018. The KC-30A has a fuel capacity of more than 100 tons allowing it to fly up to 1800 kilometers from its home base and offload up to 50 tons of fuel for four hours.

KC-30A refuels a B-52
(U.S. Air Force photo by Donald R. Allen)
KC-30A refuels a B-52 Allies in the sky
(U.S. Air Force photo by Donald R. Allen)