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Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker Aerial Refueling Boom System Completes Contact With An F-16

The Advanced Refueling Boom System (ARBS) being developed for several A330-based tanker customers performs initial in-flight dry contacts Dec. 5, 2007. Northrop Grumman's KC-30 Tanker will directly benefit from ongoing development and flight testing of the ARBS.
by Staff Writers
Melbourne FL (SPX) Dec 11, 2007
Northrop Grumman's KC-30 Tanker Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) performed its first in-flight contacts with a receiver aircraft, marking the successful completion of a key program milestone and underscoring the company's low-risk approach for quickly replacing the U.S. Air Force's KC-135 tanker fleet. The initial refueling contacts used the advanced ARBS installed on an A310 testbed aircraft, which operated with an F-16 receiver aircraft flying at 27,000 feet.

The contacts reflected a typical refueling mission, with the ARBS' 40-ft.-long boom deployed to its operational length and inserted into the F-16 receiver aircraft's refueling receptacle.

Multiple boom hook-ups were conducted with the F-16. The ARBS was controlled by Don Cash, a 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran and refueling boom operator, using the A310's Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) console. The RARO station employs a three-dimensional vision surveillance system, providing a high-fidelity visual representation of the boom's position during the entire air-to-air refueling process. Today's flight test was the 60th for the boom, totaling more than 160 flight hours.

"Successful completion of this milestone reflects the KC-30 industrial team's focus on providing a next-generation, low-risk solution for recapitalizing the Air Force's refueling assets," said Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman vice president and general manager of the KC-30 program. "The pace of our test and development program, including the completed assembly and flight testing of the very first KC-30 Tanker aircraft, is strong evidence that the KC-30 Tanker will meet or exceed all U.S. Air Force requirements."

Northrop Grumman's KC-30 Tanker teammate EADS developed the ARBS, the most capable in-flight refueling system available today. It is already onboard the first of five KC-30B Multi-Role Tanker/Transport aircraft EADS is supplying to the Royal Australian Air Force and will be used on three similar A330 MRTT aircraft ordered by the United Arab Emirates.

Fly-by-wire technology incorporated in the ARBS provides enhanced controllability and includes an automatic load alleviation system, which greatly aids the boom operator -- as well as the receiver aircraft's pilot -- during refueling operations. With the capacity to offload up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, the ARBS is easily adaptable to future mission requirements, including the refueling of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"A new era in aerial refueling has begun with our team's advanced ARBS' initial in-flight contacts," said John Young, chief executive officer of EADS North America Tankers. "The ARBS brings tanker technology into the 21st century with a highly capable refueling system that will fulfill Air Force aerial refueling requirements throughout the KC-30's operational life."

Following the ARBS' initial in-flight contacts, subsequent tests will be performed with fuel transfers from the A310 testbed's boom to a variety of receiver aircraft.

A powerful U.S. and allied industrial team led by Northrop Grumman has been established to produce and supply KC-30 Tankers for the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft is based on the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which was selected by the air forces of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

The KC-30 Tanker aircraft will be assembled in Mobile, Ala., and the KC-30 team will employ 25,000 American workers at 230 U.S. companies. It will be built by a world-class industrial team led by Northrop Grumman, and includes EADS North America, General Electric Aviation and Sargent Fletcher.

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