For the first time, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has conducted air-to-air refuelling flight testing with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF, or Koku-Jieitai). Conducted in April over three weeks, the flight test engineering program in Japan involved a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and Mitsubishi F-2 aircraft of the JASDF.
Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia, said the successful flight test program was a leap forward for Australia and Japan’s interoperability, and would facilitate the increasing complexity and sophistication of bilateral engagement between both nations.
“This is the first time that a RAAF aircraft has refuelled a JASDF aircraft, and will help build the special strategic partnership between Australia and Japan,” Goldie said. “The success of this program will facilitate Japan’s participation in Exercise Pitch Black 22, which will take place in the Northern Territory this August and September. Working together will ensure we can continue to uphold and reinforce a secure, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.”
Over a series of flights, aircrew and engineers ensured the mechanical compatibility between these systems, and that both aircraft can be flown safely in a range of configurations and lighting conditions. The RAAF flight test team has extensive experience with KC-30A refuelling trials in Australia, the United States and Singapore, with this most recent trial being the first time it has worked with the JASDF.
“The flight test program represents two years of close cooperation between our own Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), and the JASDF Air Development and Test Wing (ADTW),” Goldie said.
In recent years, JASDF and RAAF personnel have worked together following natural disasters in Tonga and Australia, and trained with each other during Exercise Cope North in Guam, and Exercise Bushido Guardian in Japan.