A330 Voyager

AirTanker has shipped the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fourth A330 Voyager future strategic tanker aircraft (FSTA) under contract to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, UK.

Designated ZZ332, the Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60-powered aircraft represents the first of only two tanker/transports to have undergone conversion in the country, as reported by Flightglobal.

Modified by Cobham Aviation Services in Bournemouth, Dorset, UK, the aircraft marks one of the seven Voyagers to have been delivered as suitable for use as a three-point tanker, which includes under-wing hose, drogue refuelling pods, as well as a fuselage refuelling unit (FRU).

AirTanker chief executive Phill Blundell was quoted by the news agency as saying that the company has achieved good progress on FSTA programme, and anticipates receiving release to service approval from the UK Ministry of Defence to start air-to-air refuelling training activities with Voyager for the air force.

"Spring and summer this year represent a critical period in the build-up of our operation, with Voyager 5 expected within a month and Voyager 6 shortly after," Blundell added.

The company is required to deliver a core fleet of nine tankers to RAF by May 2014, as per the planned schedule for the aircraft to receive its full in-service status.

To fulfil the commitment, the company transferred modification work on remaining Voyagers to Airbus Military’s Getafe facility near Madrid, Spain in May 2012, as Cobham took more than one year for each aircraft.

Cobham was originally scheduled to convert 12 of the 14 types.

A derivative of Airbus Military’s A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT), the Voyager is designed to replace the RAF’s existing L-1011 and VC10 tanker fleet for air transport and tanker duties.

Primarily operated by the service’s 10 Squadron, the aircraft is also flown by AirTanker Services as certified civilian aircraft for charter flights, when not in military use.

Image: A Royal Air Force’s Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft stationed at Airbus facility in Getafe, Spain. Photo: Courtesy of Angel Nikolov.

Defence Technology