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The powerful air mobility of the RAAF

The first RAAF C-27J Spartan battlefield airlift aircraft landed on RAAF Base Richmond on the last day of June. "

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is one of the most capable operations in the southern hemisphere, with a significant number of strike, reconnaissance, intelligence and mobility air craft. This isn't to mention the substantial number of support forces responsible for the security and smooth running of the air fleet.

While it's true that the RAAF can carry out a number of operations, air mobility is one particular stand out. Since World War II, transport planes have ferried cargo across Australia and around the world, delivering personnel and supplies to areas of need, often within very tight time constraints.

With this in mind, it's time to take a look at the air mobility aircraft the RAAF use on a regular basis.

C-17A Globemaster III

The heavy lift aircraft of the RAAF, the C-17A is one of the most capable strategic air lift vehicles in the world. With designs starting back in the 1980s, the aircraft came about in response to a US need for a transport that could be both refuelled in flight and use rough forward fields.

As a testament to the capabilities of this aircraft, in 1998, eight C-17s completed the longest duration airdrop in history. The aircraft flew 14,816 kilometres to drop off important supplies and equipment.

For Australia, these planes ferry troops, supplies and combat vehicles, along with heavy equipment and even helicopters. They're so large they can carry three Black Hawk helicopters.

The C-130J is a particularly important aircraft for the RAAF.The C-130J is a particularly important aircraft for the RAAF.

C-130J Hercules

Few other aircraft are as famous as the C-130. This is a plane that's been in continuous production for decades - and longer than any other military aircraft in the world. It's a true workhorse of the RAAF, the US Air Force and numerous others, and many variations have spun off from this aircraft.

It's a medium-sized air lifter, with the ability to ferry 120 passengers or seven cargo pallets. It's also able to land on short and unsurfaced airstrips, which makes it an extremely useful aircraft for combat operations.

They're so versatile that over time, they've been everywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic - and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


Refuelling in the air is a key part of the RAAF, as it allows for extended duration combat and transport operations. The KC-30A MRTT, which stands for Multi Role Tanker Transport, is the aircraft responsible for these operations in the RAAF.

It's able to transfer 100 tonnes of fuel to the various Australian aircraft capable of being refuelled in the air, which allows them to extend their flights by hundreds of kilometres. The KC-30A MRTT can actually remain 1800km away from its home base for a period of up to four hours, with 50 tonnes available to offload.

C-27J Spartan

Lastly, there's the future air mobility aircraft of the RAAF. This is a new generation tactical airlifter that's able to carry out many of the same roles as the Hercules, but with a number of new capabilities. It stands out as it can carry significant loads to airstrips not suited for the C-130J.

Interestingly, it also uses the same infrastructure as the C-130J, including engines, avionics and even cargo handling systems.

Transport aircraft refuel smaller jets like the F/A-18 above.The KC-30A MRTT can refuel smaller aircraft like the F/A-18 above.

The defence aircraft of the RAAF will continue to serve the country well into the next decade, and likely beyond, providing critical air mobility for the Australian Defence Force at large. Of course, there's always room for new aircraft to enter the ranks.

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214.

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