The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has retired its L-1011 TriStar medium-to-long-range tanker/transports fleet following 30 years of operational service.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the hose-and-drogue extended L-1011 TriStar aircraft were operated by No 216 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, in support of air transport (AT) and air-to-air refuelling (AAR) missions.

Nine TriStar aircraft, which had been in service with British Airways and Pan Am as passenger airliners, were purchased by RAF in the early 1980s in wake of the Falklands conflict and also to address the requirement to provide support to forces in the South Atlantic.

UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said TriStar has provided vital support, and carried more than 250,000 troops as well as battle-winning supplies to UK personnel anywhere in the world.

Dunne said, "It also carried out vital air-to-air refuelling to our frontline combat aircraft at home and on deployed operations.

"Its replacement, Voyager, is testament to our commitment to provide state of the art transport and refuelling capability for our armed forces. Capable of carrying more, for longer, it has already begun flights to Afghanistan and will also refuel our frontline combat aircraft for decades to come."

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"It also carried out vital air-to-air refuelling to our frontline combat aircraft at home and on deployed operations."

TriStars have recently provided air-to-air refuelling to fast jet aircraft operating over Afghanistan and Libya, in addition to offering the vital air bridge, transporting troops and cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 216 Sqn is believed to have flown 1642 times to Afghanistan, carrying a quarter of a million passengers each way over the last eight years.

The last four TriStar aircraft have departed RAF Brize Norton for Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicestershire, UK, for disposal.

Image: A RAF TriStar refuelling Typhoon aircraft over the North Sea. Photo: Squadron Leader Dylan Eklund, Crown ©.

Defence Technology