RAAF crew praised after unique refueling of crippled US jet
IN AN Australian first, a RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport has refuelled a United States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet that was having engine trouble over Iraq.
The USMC Hornet was flying a combat mission against Daesh over northern Iraq when it was forced to shut down one of its two engines due to a mechanical issue.
Short on fuel, the Hornet pilot requested air-to-air refuelling support from the RAAF KC-30A.
A challenging feat at the best of times, air-to-air refuelling with an engine-out Hornet had only ever been conducted in flight testing scenarios and never before from the RAAF aircraft over a war zone.
Based at RAAF Base Amberley and operated by Number 33 Squadron, the five KC-30As feature advanced mission systems, including military communications and navigation, an electronic warfare self-protection system for protection against threats from surface-to-air missiles.
KC-30A captain Sqn Ldr Jamie said the situation demanded some brainstorming and clever flying.
"The hardest part was that the Hornet couldn't maintain the required altitude or speed that we normally refuel at due to the hostile environment over Iraq," Sqn Ldr Jamie said.
"The first option was to accept refuelling at a reduced speed, lower than normally required, and refuelling at that speed had never been done by me or my crew.
"The other option was to do what we call tobogganing, where we refuel while descending to allow the Hornet to gather more speed. This option would have brought us below a safe altitude, so we went with the first option.
Sqn Ldr Jamie said the USMC pilot demonstrated incredible skill and the RAAF KC-30A and USMC Hornet were able to conduct the complicated manoeuvre in order to enable the jet to refuel, fly out of Iraq and land safely.
"The Hornet had dropped bombs from one of its wings, making his aircraft les stable, which when combined with the loss of an engine, makes refuelling in mid-air a real challenge.