Until recently the RAF’s AAR fleet mainly
comprises 15 x VC10 K3 and K4 aircraft flown by No 101 Squadron
based at RAF Brize Norton. These were supported by 8 x Tristar
K1/KC1/C2/C2A (216 Sqn, Brize Norton) aircraft used for both
transport and AAR.
The RAF AAR capability is the most
specialised in NATO, and has been extensively deployed in recent
allied coalition operations in Afghanistan, and Iraq. From 2014
onwards RAF AAR operations will be undertaken by A330 Voyager
aircraft. On 27 March 2008 the UK Ministry of Defence signed a deal
to lease 14 aircraft under a PFI agreement from the EADS-led
consortium AirTanker Ltd. This PFI contract is based on the firm
assumption that the FSTA aircraft are both operated from, and
maintained at RAF Brize Norton.
The AirTanker consortium comprises Cobham,
EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales and VT Group. The Airbus Military division
of EADS were responsible for designing, developing and converting
the tankers based on the Airbus A300-200 aircraft, and for
delivering the completed aircraft to AirTanker.
FSTA (now Voyager) will replace the in-service Tri Star and VC10
There are two versions: Voyager KC2 fitted with two Cobham 905E
under-wing refuelling pods and Voyager KC3 fitted with a Cobham 805E
Fuselage Refuelling Unit in addition to the under-wing pods. Voyager
is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines.
Voyager will probably remain in service until about 2040, and the
aircraft will refuel combat aircraft such as the Tornado, Typhoon
and the F35B which will enter service during the next decade.
In its air-to-air refuelling role Voyager
has the ability to offload 60 tonnes of fuel 1,000 miles from base,
and remain on station for 2 hours. On a typical deployment over
about 3,000 miles, a single A330 would be able to refuel four
Tornados and still carry 11,000lb (5000kg) of freight and/or 290
The in-service date for Voyager is May 2014 when nine of the 14
aircraft on order will be available for AAR operations.
The PFI payment terms means that the MoD will only pays for the
service delivered depending on number of aircraft booked per day,
and hours flown..
AIRBUS A330 Specifications
72,000lbs each engine
||197ft 10in (60.30m)