The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s No. 33 Squadron (33SQN) has conducted an ‘elephant walk’ with five KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for the first time at RAAF Base Amberley.
An elephant walk is an aviation term that dates back to the Second World War when massed formations of Allied bombers would taxi to the runway for take-off.
The 33SQN conducted the feat with a row of five KC-30As stretched over 500 metres of RAAF Base Amberley taxiway in Queensland, Australia on Nov. 15. Following the elephant walk, four of the aircraft took off from Amberley on separate missions. These included air-to-air refuelling training, flight test development, and airlift tasks to support volunteer firefighters combatting bushfires in New South Wales.
RAAF’s 33SQN has a fleet of seven KC-30As in total. Of the squadron’s remaining two aircraft, one flew on a mission in the Middle East Region for Operation Okra, and the other was in scheduled heavy maintenance.
Group Captain (GPCAPT) Steve Pesce, Officer Commanding No. 86 Wing, said the KC-30A elephant walk demonstrated an immense strategic capability for Defence.
“Launching five KC-30A aircraft demonstrates a capacity to concurrently transport over one thousand passengers or ferry more than 40 Hornets across Australia,” GPCAPT Pesce said. “Alternatively, five aircraft could position 1800 kilometres from base and offload 250 tonnes of fuel to receivers over four hours. The capacity to project this magnitude of airpower at range has previously been beyond Air Force.”
Each KC-30A is a heavily modified variant of the Airbus A330-200 commercial airliner, and at 59 metres long and with a 60.3-metre wingspan, it is the largest aircraft in the Air Force.
Unique systems on the KC-30A includes external-mounted cameras to hose-and-drogue refuelling pods mounted beneath the wings and an 11-metre telescopic boom mounted beneath the tail.
Following delays in its development, a fleet of five KC-30As was delivered to the RAAF between 2011 and 2015 under Project AIR 5402. A sixth and seventh aircraft were delivered in 2018 and 2019 respectively under Project AIR 7403 Phase 3.
The seventh aircraft is a specially modified KC-30A Government Transport Communication (GTC) aircraft to support Government transport and additional Air Refuelling capacity. This aircraft had undergone further modification, as compared to other KC-30As, to include an enhanced interior and communications suite.