The Voyager Programme has taken another step forward to delivery of its full capability of nine aircraft by the mid-point of this year with the arrival of Voyager 07.
Flying into the Voyager Hub at the end of January [29/1/14], ZZ337 is the seventh aircraft to join the RAF Brize Norton-based fleet as part of the Future Strategic Transport Aircraft (FSTA) contract.
It means that six Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft (four three-point capable and two two-point capable tankers) are now available for use by the RAF. Capable of performing air transport, aeromedical and air-to-air refuelling roles simultaneously, they deliver a step change in capability to the UK Armed Forces.
The AirTanker/Voyager fleet also includes a seventh aircraft, retained by AirTanker on the Civil Aircraft Register. Flown by civilian pilots and exclusively available to the MOD, it forms the basis of AirTanker’s ‘charter’ service.
David Mitchard, Managing Director, AirTanker Services said: “2014 is a significant year for AirTanker and the Voyager programme. The arrival of ZZ337, represents the start of an intensive delivery programme which will see another two aircraft fly into RAF Brize Norton by the mid-point of the year.
“This builds on the progress made in 2013. We are now delivering a significant proportion of the full service and have our foundation blocks in place but there is much more to do this year. We look forward to working in partnership with the RAF with continuing dedication and commitment, to deliver a new cutting-edge capability and pioneering service to the UK Armed Forces.”
AirTanker secured clearance to begin air-to-air refuelling operations with Typhoon and Tornado in summer 2013, followed by the start of operations in support of the Afghanistan air-bridge in December.
Separately, having received its ETOPs clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority in June, AirTanker’s civilian airline service took over the Falkland Islands air-bridge in October.
In all, 14 aircraft will be delivered to the RAF as part of the Voyager programme. This includes the nine-aircraft core fleet and a five aircraft surge fleet capability, the first of which will be delivered in 2015.
When not required by the RAF this surge fleet capability is available to AirTanker for release, with its agreement, for other purposes. This could include release to the charter market, less its military equipment or to partner nations in a military capacity with the MOD’s agreement.