Flying Officer Robert Borrillo became a small part of Air Force history on November 29 when he graduated from the Air Refuelling Operator Course at No. 33 Squadron.

Completing his training on the KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft, Flying Officer Borrillo became the first new Air Mobility Officer (AMO) in Air Force since 2011.

His graduation signals a new pathway for aircrew to serve on the KC-30A and Flying Officer Borrillo said he was looking forward to the opportunities the role presented.

“Due to the dynamic nature of the role, it opens up a lot of opportunities for moving passengers, cargo and aircraft around the world,” Flying Officer Borrillo said.

“That creates chances to be involved in exercises and operations with a lot of other nations and I’m keen to see where this role can take me.”

In the next 12 months alone, No. 33 Squadron KC-30As will ferry more F-35As home from the United States, continue tanking operations in the Middle East region and support exercises in Hawaii, Japan, and the Northern Territory.

Key to all of these activities is the KC-30A’s Air Refuelling Operator, who is responsible for managing the aircraft’s air-to-air refuelling systems.

Until now, all AROs on the KC-30A have been enlisted aircrew, or qualified AMOs from retired aircraft, such as the C-130H Hercules or Boeing 707.

No new AMOs have been trained in Air Force since the wind-down of C-130H operations in 2011.

Air Force’s experience with the KC-30A, however, has demonstrated the need for AMOs, who can build experience with air-to-air refuelling and share that knowledge when Defence plans future tanking operations.

Flying Officer Borrillo’s path to becoming an AMO on the KC-30A began with joining Air Force to become an Air Combat Officer in February 2018 after coming through Officer Training School at RAAF Base East Sale.

“Due to the dynamic nature of the role, it opens up a lot of opportunities for moving passengers, cargo and aircraft around the world.”

“After completing Mission Elementary Course in Sale as part of my ACO training, I went on an interim posting to 11SQN at RAAF Base Edinburgh while I awaited streaming for a specific role,” Flying Officer Borrillo said.

“It was brought to my attention that AMO was a possible streaming option, so I put my hand up for it.”

The AMO role on the KC-30A is also open to enlisted aircrew who wish to commission and to officer aircrew, including pilots or ACOs from other aircraft types.

All candidates must complete specialised training to serve on the KC-30A.

“I’ve completed courses in loadmaster basic, KC-30A cargo loading and dangerous goods packing and acceptance,” Flying Officer Borrillo said.

“These were along with the ARO Course [at RAAF Base Amberley], which includes 13 simulator events at CAE Australia, and seven conversion flights conducted at the squadron.”

From the ARO console in the KC-30A’s cockpit, Flying Officer Borrillo manages the aircraft’s suite of refuelling systems. This includes hose-and-drogue refuelling pods mounted beneath the KC-30A’s wings, and an 11m refuelling boom mounted under the tail.

In flight, the boom extends 17m in length and is controlled by an ARO using 3D glasses and remote cameras.

Civilian instructors with CAE Australia are responsible for teaching students how to operate the KC-30A’s air-to-air refuelling systems in a training facility at RAAF Base Amberley.

“The biggest challenge has been getting up to speed with all areas of the role,” Flying Officer Borrillo said.

“There’s the procedural and controlling nature of completing air-to-air refuelling with the hose-and-drogue pods, as well as hand-eye coordination required to operate the refuelling boom.”

An ARO is also expected to have knowledge of air logistics support missions involving cargo, weight and balance, and the requirements of the arrival airports.

“It’s been challenging to develop and maintain proficiency in all areas,” Flying Officer Borrillo said.

“If anyone is interested in applying, I would thoroughly encourage them to do so - it’s a very niche role with an exciting future.”