Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

Top End Top Up’s

RAAF KC-30 Tankers from 33SQN played a major role in Talisman Sabre 2015, the largest Exercise held in Australia and ASO was incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to go along on one of their air-to-air refueling missions to see the action up-close and personal.

The USS George Washington was also part of the exercise and on-board were the Strike Fighter Squadrons  VFA-102 Diamondbacks (100 series numbers), VFA-27 Royal Maces (200 series), VFA-115 Silver Eagles (300 series), VFA-195 Dambusters (400 series), all flying F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and VFA-141 Shadowhawks (500 series), with EA-18G Growler’s.

tanker air to air_-33

Our day started off with our Pre-flight safety briefs as well as what was planned for our 4 hour flight. The trip down to the active zone only took 30 minutes from RAAF Base Darwin and no sooner had we entered our first orbit when we had our first “little friends” arrive for a top up of fuel. The first flight up was a few F/A-18F Super Hornets from VFA-102 Diamondbacks. Depending on how much fuel was needed each refueling  took around 8 minutes with 2 jets getting refueled at once. From here on jets from each of the Squadrons were turning up every 20-25 minutes to be refueled. Witnessing a sight like this is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, and I know many would do anything to get this ride.

tanker air to air_-8

To say this was awesome really doesn’t come close to how good it was, It was my first time seeing a Growler and WOW it’s a beast. It just has a size that says “I’m here and don’t mess with me”. We were able to see all the different Squadrons based on the USS George Washington which was off the coast in support of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Since it was only my second time up around Darwin I was also very surprised just how many bush/scrub fires are on the ground and this made the air very polluted but also made for some interesting ground scenes.

tanker air to air_-71

Our ride for trip was on one of the RAAF’s impressive KC-30A Multi Role Tankers, A39-001. This type of aircraft is performing so well that the RAAF have just purchased another two to bring the fleet up to 7. Each one can hold 100 tonnes of fuel as well having up to 270 passengers. The aircraft is a heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner with 2 all-electric refueling pods underneath each wing, which unreel a hose-and-drogue to refuel probe-equipped aircraft and an  Aerial Refueling Boom System mounted on the tail of the aircraft, which comprises a ‘fly-by-wire’ flying boom. These systems are controlled by an Air Refueling Operator in the cockpit, who can view  the refueling aircraft on 2D and 3D screens.

KC-30 A37-001

ASO would like to thank the whole media team , 33SQN and the Fighter Squadrons of the USS George Washington for making this event happen during the 2 week long Exercise Talisman Sabre exercise.



  1. Firstly – thanks for a fantastic site and your passion for the area is obvious. Just wanted to say that the images across the site and in this article are unbelievable. I appreciate all the effort the team must go through to bring us such quality and amazing angles. Keep it up guys!!

  2. Really Flasheart?And exactly what puporse are they to be used for then, at $142 million per jet which is roughly 40%+ greater than what the USN is paying for them brand new? Lets not forget these aircraft where supposedly wired up on the production line with a “fitted for, not with” capability to be retrofitted into Growlers down the track. So why the massive spike in the cost of the conversion from what we were told only a handful of years ago? And of course there is the slightly uncomfortable fact that USN senior officers have admitted publicly that the ALQ-99 is becoming rapidly obsolete, hence the clamor for the NGJ. No, Im afraid no matter what way you try and dress up this piece of mutton it is in theory a good idea that is being incredibly badly executed. And at a ridiculous and unjustifiable price. Why not simply buy 12 brand new G’s for 90-100 million instead of converting half our purchased F’s at 140 million a pop? Do these idiots know how to count past the fingers and toes they were born with? Far better to push for more Super’s in Block III form and look at various other pod solutions, given we will probably never go head to head with a first rate IADS and even if we do it will be part of some coalition effort using USN/USAF jamming ability.To suggest it is not a valid argument to question the capability of the ALQ-99 given statements by senior military officers over its approaching obsolescence and limited further scope for future upgrade. As well as a complete lack of valid data showing it IS capable against modern high end threats, let alone the price of this program is simply not a credible statement. Unless of course you know something we all dont.

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