VICTORIA, Australia — The Airbus KC-30A multirole tanker transport (MRTT) is on track to achieve final operating capability this year with the Royal Australian Air Force, according to Air Commodore Warren McDonald, air mobility group commander.

The RAAF has five KC-30As, including one currently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Okra, the RAAF's contribution to coalition air strikes against Islamic State group targets in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters at the 2015 Australian International Air Show at Avalon Airport, Air Commodore McDonald said that the KC-30A program was behind schedule, significantly late, but operational use has seen it become the tanker of choice for hose and drogue refueling in-theater.

"The KC-30A is a step change in capability for our Air Force," he said. "But we should have taken it out of transition and put it into operations a bit earlier. There are times when you have to step out front and make it happen."

The KC-30A program is currently on the Australian government's Projects of Concern list, despite its demonstrated maturity in Iraq. Operational test and evaluation of the aircraft's fly-by-wire aerial refueling boom system (ARBS) is due to be carried out through 2015, ahead of final operating capability. FOC later in the year.

Air Commodore McDonald said that an airworthiness board meeting in March was expected to issue a special flight permit to which will allow RAAF operational clearance of the boom to begin.

Initial focus will be on clearance of the KC-30A as a receiver and will be followed by trials with the RAAFs Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control AEW&C platform. Discussions will also be held with the Republic of Singapore Air Force in early March, with a view to clearing the boom to operate with Singapore's RSAF Boeing F-15SG Eagles and Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcons.

Testing will also be carried out with the Lockheed Martin F-35A at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in July.

Elsewhere, Christian Scherer, executive vice president of In other Airbus MRTT news, EVP marketing and sales, Christian Scherer said a decision on the South Korean Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) tanker project was expected shortly.

"The Koreans understand the capability of the aircraft very well," he noted.

"We expect a decision in the next few months."

Scherer said the A330-based MRTT has won eight out of 10ten tanker competitions in recent years, losing only in the United States (to the Boeing KC-46A) and Brazil (IAI 767-300).