AirTanker has taken receipt of its first ‘three-point’ tanker, marking a significant step forward in the Voyager programme.
The first of seven ‘three-point capable’ tankers that will be delivered to the RAF as part of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme (FSTA), the aircraft is configured to include a centre-line fuselage refuelling unit capability, in addition to wing pods.
Flying into RAF Brize Norton on the 26th April, the aircraft will join Voyager 01 and 03 on the Military Aircraft Register as ZZ332.
Phill Blundell, CEO, AirTanker, said: “The arrival of Voyager 04, the first of our three-point capable tankers, represents an exciting step forward in our programme and in the delivery of new capability to the RAF.
“Spring and summer this year represent a critical period in the build-up of our operation, with Voyager 05 expected within a month and Voyager 06 shortly after. Meanwhile, we expect a release to begin air-to-air refuelling from the MOD, imminently.”
In all, 14 aircraft, plus the associated personnel and infrastructure to support them, will be delivered by the Voyager programme. This includes seven two-point tankers, which refuel from wing pods and the seven three point capable tankers.
AirTanker is charged with the delivery of a core capability of nine Voyager aircraft by mid-2014, with the operational programme continuing to make good progress against this target.
To date the two military aircraft since the start of operational service in April last year, ZZ330 and ZZ331, have together clocked more than 1,700 hours, flying more than 470 sectors, carrying more than 25,000 passengers and 2,000 tonnes plus of freight.
Voyager 02, which flies on the Civil Aircraft Register, has flown more than 230 hours and 73 sectors, carrying more than 5,000 passengers and more than 300 tonnes of freight. The aircraft, G-VYGG, forms the core of AirTanker’s airline operation, which began operations with an inaugural flight to Akrotiri in January this year.
Operated and manned by a civilian crew, the airline service is available to the MOD to task in the same way as existing arrangements with other civilian charter airlines but with the advantages that come with exclusive usage.
Blundell added: “We are very much an ‘operational programme’ and building a strong reputation among UK Armed forces for the delivery of a highly flexible but also reliable service.”