A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus A330 MRTT conducted mid-air refueling of a Japan Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi F-2 fighter for the first time. 

The milestone was reached during a flight test campaign that took place over three weeks in April 2022. The interoperability of the two aircraft was evaluated in a variety of conditions. 

The refueler involved in the flight test belonged to the No. 33 Squadron of the RAAF. The A330 MRTT, known as the KC-30A in Australia, is a multirole aircraft, both a tanker and a carrier (freight and passengers) based on the A330 airliner. It is capable of carrying more than 100 tonnes of fuel and 43 tonnes of freight. The RAAF operates a fleet of seven KC-30As from RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. 

The refueled F-2A fighter belonged to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the JASDF. The testing was monitored by personnel of Japan’s Air Development and Test Wing. The Mitsubishi F-2 is an indigenous multirole fighter jet operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Based on the F-16 fighter jet, it was jointly developed by Japan and the United States. 

“This is the first time that a RAAF aircraft has refueled a JASDF aircraft, and will help build the special strategic partnership between Australia and Japan,” Air Vice-Marshal Goldie said. “The success of this program will facilitate Japan’s participation in Exercise Pitch Black 22, which will take place in the Northern Territory this August and September.” 

Every two years since 1981, the RAAF has hosted the Exercise Pitch Black with a range of foreign attendees, including NATO nations and allies in the Indo-Pacific region. The participation of Japan was scheduled for the 2020 edition but was canceled over COVID-19 concerns. The nation renewed its commitment for 2022.