After 21 years and 279 aircraft procuded, the curtain falls for Boeing C-17 Globemaster III production in Long Beach, California. The final C-17 left the production facility on Sunday 29 November on it’s way to another Boeing facility in Texas in preparation for delivery to the Qatar Emiri Air Force next year.
Qatar is one of nine operators of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, the military transport aircraft that first flew on 15 September 1991 from Long Beach. The US Air Force is the largest operator by far, taking 223 aircraft. The last USAF-delivery took place in 2013.
Over the last decade, India quickly became the second largest operator, counting 10 Globemaster. Australia and the UK both operate eight aircraft. Other operators are Canada, NATO, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Along with the UAE, Qatar was one of the operators to snatch up some of the last Globemasters remaining for sale. Ahead of closing down production, Boeing decided to produce a dozen or so ‘white-tail’ C-17s; aircraft with no formal customer. Other countries to take some of these aircraft were India, Australia and Canada.
A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (Airbus A330 MRTT) has used its air‑to‑air refuelling boom for the first time on operations while refuelling a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail (Boeing 737) last week during a Coalition mission above Iraq, the Ministry of Defence in Canberra announced on 27 October 2015.
The air-to-air boom refuelling process involved two large aircraft, military versions of the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737-700, approaching within metres of each other while in flight and transferring fuel via a manoeuvrable pipe, known as a boom, which extends back from the rear of the KC-30A. This type of refuelling involves use of the AAR boom at the rear of the aircraft, rather than the wingtip AAR drogues used to refuel smaller aircraft equipped with an AAR probe.
The Air Refuelling Operator was responsible for remotely manoeuvring the boom from a control panel on the KC-30A flight deck. While moving at an altitude of 25,000 feet at speeds over 400 knots the KC-30 crew transferred 34,750 pounds of fuel within 15 minutes. That’s equal to 300 family sedan cars at a rate of less than three seconds per car.
A KC-30A and an E-7A Wedgetail, along with six F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, are deployed with the Australian Air Task Group as part of Operation Okra – the Australian contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve – or air strikes against the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) forces in Iraq and Syria.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II completed the first air-to-air refueling from an Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) recently in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Airbus tanker was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft designated KC-30A. A total of 59 contacts were conducted of which five contacts transferred 43,200 pounds of fuel during the four hour sortie.
Following an Italian Boeing KC-767 earlier this year, the KC-30A is the second foreign tanker aircraft to succesfully refuel the F-35, of which the Australians have 72 on order. The RAAF uses five relatively new KC-30As for air-to-air refueling. “Our KC-30A is an essential force multiplier. Mid-air refuelling is critical to ensuring global reach for our aircraft, our people and our equipment. Refuelling between the KC-30A and F-35A is an important step towards the KC-30A’s achievement of Final Operational Capability (FOC) and represents continued progress in the development of the F-35A”, said Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies.
Current Australian F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft use the hose-and-drogue system for refueling, whereas the F-35A uses the refueling boom. The KC-30 is equipped for both. Two more Aussie KC-30s are expected in 2018.
Australia currently flies two F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in the US. In the future, the 5th generation fighter aircraft will be based at RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, with the first aircraft arriving in late 2018.
The first Boeing EA-18G Growler for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was rolled out on Wednesday 29 July by Boeing and the US Navy. Australia has twelve of the electronic warfare aircraft on order under a foreign military sales agreement with the US Navy, and is the second country to operate the type following the US.
The Growler will fly to Naval Air Station (NAS) China Lake, California, for flight testing. It is then expected to head for NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, for training purposes. RAAF electronic warfare operators will train with US Navy pilots to gain expertise in the highly technical electronic warfare mission. The RAAF is expected to take delivery of the aircraft in-country in 2017.
The Growler is derivative of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and according toe Boeing, is the only aircraft in production providing tactical jamming and electronic protection. Australia already operates a fleet of older F/A-18A and B Hornets, plus 24 newer F/A-18F Super Hornets.
“The Growlers will complement our existing and future air combat capability, and we will be much more lethal,” said Air Marshal Geoff Brown, former chief of the RAAF. “In many respects, it’s the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the RAAF.” Australia is working to reshape the RAAF into an integrated, networked force able to deliver air power in all operating environments. The project is named Plan Jericho.
Australia has dropped plans to buy Lockheed Martin F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft for its Landing Helicopter Ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, various sources report on Thursday 9 July.
Plans to operate the F-35B from both ships first emerged last year and were even confirmed by Defense minister David Johnston. Those plans have now been quietly ditched, the apparent reason being the large number of modifications needed to both brand new ships.
Australia therefore will only operate the standard F-35A variant, of which 72 are on order and two are currently used for training in the US. The first Royal Australian Air Force pilots are learning to fly the F-35A at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.