Australia receives first upgraded KC-30A Multi-Role Transport Tanker from Spain

Australia has received the first KC-30A Multi-Role Transport Tanker equipped with significant communications and cyber upgrade from Spain based Airbus in November.

Its secure high frequency and very high frequency radios, encryption device, and tactical data link were enhanced under the Crypto Remediation Project (CRP).

These improvements aim to provide safer and more efficient communication, and improve command, control and situational awareness.

Additionally, upgrades will increase KC-30A data throughput by 300 per cent.

Noteworthy, the modernisation and system upgrades will ensure the RAAF KC-30A fleet can better integrate with other Defence aircraft and those of our coalition partner forces.

The two-year process was led by the Heavy Airlift Systems Program Office (HALSPO).

The remainder of the RAAF KC-30A fleet is scheduled to receive the upgrades by 2025, with the modifications being undertaken by Northrop Grumman Australia in Brisbane.

To be noted that earlier in 2020, Australia had selected Airbus to develop a communications and mission system modernisation upgrade for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330 MRTT fleet.

The scope of work, which will meet the Air Force interoperability needs under their new operational requirements, will mainly cover a retrofit package, which includes new and additional Communications Capabilities and Enhanced Mission Systems, bringing it up to the latest enhanced A330 MRTT standard.

Split across two contracts, Phase 1 will see Airbus carry out the design and systems development and integration ahead of the Critical Design Review maturity gate.

On the other hand, Phase 2 will see Airbus install and deliver a prototype KC-30 aircraft (the name used by the RAAF to the A330 MRTT) for use in the certification and qualification process, ahead of finalising and supplying the modification kits for entire fleet.

Subsequent retrofit to the remainder of the fleet will be under customer responsibility.

About KC-30A Multi-Role Transport Tanker

The KC-30A Multi-Role Transport Tanker (MRTT) is a heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner that allows the Air Force to conduct air-to-air refuelling and provide strategic air lift.

It features advanced communication and navigation systems, and an electronic warfare self-protection system for shielding against threats from surface-to-air missiles.

Notably, the Air Force’s seven KC-30A aircraft are based at RAAF Base Amberley, operated by No. 33 Squadron.

The KC-30A Multi-Role Transport Tanker  is fitted with two forms of air-to-air refuelling systems:

  • an Advanced Refuelling Boom System mounted on the tail of the aircraft
  • and a pair of all-electric refuelling pods under each wing.

These systems are controlled by an Air Refuelling Operator in the cockpit, who can view refuelling on 2D and 3D screens.

Also, the KC-30A can carry a fuel load of more than 100 tonnes, and transfer part of that load to compatible aircraft, including:

  • F-35A Lightning II
  • F/A-18F Super Hornets
  • E/A-18G Growlers
  • E-7A Wedgetails
  • C-17A Globemaster III
  • P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft
  • Other KC-30As
  • foreign aircraft such as the F-16C Fighting Falcon and B-1B Lancer.

Moreover, the KC-30A MRTT can remain 1800 km from its home base, with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours.

In its transport role, the KC-30A is capable of carrying 270 passengers.

Besides, it comes with under-floor cargo compartments which can accommodate 34,000 kilograms of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.


Manufacturer Airbus Military
  • Air-to-air refuelling 
  • Long-range troop transport
  • Pilot 
  • Co-pilot 
  • Air refuelling officer 
  • Mission coordinator 
  • Up to eight crew attendants
Length 59m
Height 17.4m
Wingspan 60.3m
  • 233 tonnes (maximum take-off weight) 
  • 180 tonnes (maximum landing weight)
Engines Two General Electric CF6-80E1A3
Range 14,800 kms
Ceiling 41,000 feet
Cruise speed 860 km/h
  • Up to 270 passengers 
  • 34,000 kgs of cargo
  • 111 tonnes of fuel 
Weapons Electronic self-protection measures