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April 25, 2013
INITIAL tanking trials between the
Super Hornet and KC-30A have
A report on the trials, led by the
Aircraft Research and Development
Unit (ARDU), has recommended
approval for the two aircraft types to
conduct air-to-air refuelling (AAR)
within an initial limited envelope.
The AAR trials were conduct-
ed in a range of conditions from
A total of 54 flying hours were
completed by the Super Hornets
and 33 flying hours by the KC-30A.
In an impressive tally, a total
of 87 engagements were made
between the two aircraft, with
almost 76 tonnes of fuel transferred.
The Super Hornet deploys a
refuelling probe in front of its cock-
pit and connects with a drogue
deployed from the tanker.
FLTLT David Bell, a qualified
test pilot at ARDU and graduate
of the US Naval Test Pilot School,
said the program provided an ini-
tial envelope for AAR operations
between both aircraft.
"The flight test team does not
just perform one 'plug' to prove the
capability," FLTLT Bell said.
"It looks to create an envelope
to guarantee that future AAR opera-
tions can be conducted safely and
efficiently at a range of predicted
AAR testing is done at differ-
ent airspeeds, altitudes and tanker
and receiver loading configurations
to assess the nature of the tanker's
wake. The stability of the drogue
and the flying qualities of the Super
Hornet when performing drogue
engagements is also examined.
Night AAR testing was also con-
ducted to assess the lighting com-
patibility between both the receiver
and the tanker.
FLTLT Bell holds the unique
distinction of being the only quali-
fied test pilot in the world to have
completed KC-30A AAR test pro-
grams with both the Australian F/A-
18A/B and the F/A-18F.
"It has been an extremely
rewarding opportunity to carry out
these clearances with ARDU, which
have helped bring capabilities such
as KC-30A into service," FLTLT
The test program used the com-
bined expertise of personnel from
ARDU's headquarters and its
Amberley detachment, along with
significant assistance from 82WG
flight test personnel and 33SQN.
The KC-30A's crew were aug-
mented with flight test engineers,
while qualified test pilots and flight
test engineers flew on receiver air-
CO ARDU WGCDR Andrew
Figtree said AAR flying was the
ultimate test of a pilot's concentra-
tion and skill.
"The nature of the flight test
environment amplified the inten-
sity of refuelling with the Super
Hornet," WGCDR Figtree said.
During the trials, results were
immediately compiled for the test
report, which would help clear the
AAR capability for operations.
"There was significant involve-
ment across the executive of
ARDU to ensure that this report
was released as soon as possible,"
WGCDR Figtree said.
"The speed and diligence dis-
played by the flight test team was
exceptional, noting the small window
available to complete this testing.
"ARDU has developed a con-
siderable pedigree with AAR hose
and drogue testing over the last two
years and we must have some of the
most qualified AAR test crews in
The flight test report from
ARDU will be provided to the US
Once follow-on testing is done
to enable a full clearance, the US
Navy will provide clearance for
the KC-30A to support world-wide
AAR with the Super Hornet.
FLTLT Cath Friend
THE F/A-18F Super Hornet squad-
rons have operated under such a
high tempo since the beginning
of the year it's no surprise they
hit another significant milestone
but didn't have time to stop and
In late January, the fleet passed
10,000 flying hours -- an impressive
feat considering the first five jets
only arrived in Australia in March
Since then, the milestones have
kept on coming, thanks to an enthu-
siastic and committed workforce,
according to OC 82WG GPCAPT
"[The 10,000-hour milestone] is
a credit to the project and collective
running system approach to Super
Hornet," GPCAPT Harland said.
"It is a highly impressive capa-
bility in its own right and we are
very proud of its ongoing achieve-
ments thanks to the significant hard
work and professionalism of the
entire team across both Air Force
and Defence Materiel Organisation."
Only months after the first jets
arrived, Initial Operational Capability
was achieved on December 8, 2010,
followed by Final Operational Ca-
pability last year on December 12.
Most recently the jets completed the
refuelling testing and capability with
33SQN's KC-30A tanker aircraft.
FLTLT Daniel Grealy, of 1SQN,
was in the first team to fly the Super
Hornet in the US in 2010 and is
currently supporting the Fighter
Combat Instructor course at RAAF
Base Williamtown. He also became
the first Super Hornet pilot to
achieve 'A' Categorisation.
"Coming from a Classic Hornet
background, my first experience fly-
ing a Super Hornet was like putting
on a pair of old jeans -- familiar and
very comfortable," he said.
"It has an excellent human/ma-
chine interface and is very easy to
fly. Where the Super Hornet excels
is the extra fuel and weapons capac-
ity as well as the enhanced systems,
specifically the active electronically
scanned array radar."
FLTLT Grealy said the aircraft
had performed exceptionally well in
all areas and had taken Air Combat
Group's capability to the next level.
"The Super Hornet is proving
to be an excellent stepping stone
to the Joint Strike Fighter and fifth
generation war-fighting," he said.
FLTLT Grealy said 82WG were
only scratching the surface of what
the aircraft was capable of.
"It is proving to be a very excit-
ing and rewarding time flying the
Super Hornet," he said.
Rhino force has 10,000
reasons to be proud
Super capability test
LARGE TASK: The
conducted 33 flying
hours during the air-to-
air refuelling tests with
the Super Hornet, left, in
Photos: LAC Craig Barrett and
CPL Rodney Welch
FLYING SUCCESS: Two F/A-
18F Super Hornets position for
an air-to-air refuelling trial with
a KC-30A. Photo: CPL Rodney Welch
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