Everything you need to know about UK PM’s rebranded private aircraft

Harry Lye 29 June 2020 (Last Updated June 29th, 2020 12:14)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) last week revealed the new Union Flag livery of its VIP Voyager aircraft used to transport the Prime Minister and senior officials to overseas visits. But the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport also remains an operational air-to-air refuelling and strategic transport aircraft.

Everything you need to know about UK PM’s rebranded private aircraft
Image shows ZZ336, the Prime Minister’s Voyager, landing and taxiing into RAF Brize Norton after being painted at Cambridge. Image: RAF/ Crown Copyright.

Repainted for £900,000 the VIP Voyager is also available to transport the British Royal Family on overseas visits. The RAF and the Government have said that the aircraft new UK paint scheme would promote the UK and the mission of ‘global Britain’.

When not being used for transporting members of the Government the VIP ‘Vespina’ Voyager remains an active part of the UK’s air-to-air refuelling and personnel transport fleet. The RAF said the new paint scheme stemmed from refurbishment plans laid down in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The officer in charge of the project, RAF Air Commodore Simon Edwards said: “This project was a privilege to have been involved in and I am delighted to have seen it delivered so quickly and efficiently, together with our industry partners. The aircraft’s new paint scheme will better reflect its prestige role which we are proud to undertake.”

As the aircraft is part of the RAF, funding for the project came from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) budget. In a written answer to Parliament, Defence Minister Jeremy Quinn said the RAF had ‘not raised any security implications’ in regards to the new paint scheme.

The VIP Voyager has been used for 25 ministerial trips since April 2016.

Image: RAF/ Crown Copyright.

All about the Voyager

The Voyager or Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), is an Airbus-built tanker and personnel transport built on the body of the company’s commercial Airbus A330 passenger airliner.

The aircraft’s primary users include the RAF, Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force.

In the UK, the RAF operates two variants; the KC2 Voyager which is equipped with two underwing refuelling pods, and the KC3 Voyager which adds a centreline hose that can be used to refuel larger aircraft like strategic bombers.

Unlike some aerial refuelling aircraft which include extra fuel tanks, the Voyager uses its existing fuel tankers for aerial refuelling; this means that the aircraft seating capacity and cargo hold are available for personnel and equipment or in the case of the VIP Voyager, official travel.

The VIP Voyager can carry 111 tonnes of aircraft fuel.

VIP Voyager on operations

Shortly after returning to RAF Brize Norton following its repainting, the VIP Voyager aircraft took part in Exercise Crimson Ocean where it refuelled Eurofighter Typhoons and Lockheed Martin F-35s while sporting its new livery.

Commenting on the exercise and the aircraft RAF Wing Commander Alistair Scott said: “The new livery looks superb but the reality is that flying this aircraft is no different to any of the other aircraft that make up the Voyager Force.

“It is capable of conducting the same essential defence tasks, not least of which is the air-to-air refuelling role that allows us to deploy our Typhoon and Lightning aircraft to every corner of the globe. Taking part in Exercise Crimson Ocean is a great opportunity to show what Voyager can do.”

Image: RAF/ Crown Copyright.

No, the flag is not the wrong way round

When the aircraft paint job was revealed some were quick to believe that the Union Flag on the aircraft’s tail was the wrong way round, however, in reality, that is not the case.

The tail flag is designed to look as though it is flying from a flagpole on the nose of the aircraft. While one side of the flag may look as though it is the wrong way round, in reality, it is how the flag would look if it was flying.