An RAF Voyager has
refuelled Dassault Rafale aircraft of the Armée de l’Air for the first time, as part of both the
United Kingdom and France’s operations against ISIS.
The Rafale multirole fighters
were refuelled by an RAF Voyager on Sunday 26 October following the issue of a
special operational clearance, marking the first time that aircraft from a European
nation have worked with the RAF's Voyager fleet.
Earlier this month, an RAF
Voyager successfully refuelled United States Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II
aircraft, supporting US-led activity in the region.
RAF Voyager support for US-led
operations in Iraq began on 10th August, with the deployment of two airframes
based at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. This included operations in support of Hercules
C-130 aid drops and Tornado GR4 reconnaissance missions over Northern Iraq.
A single Voyager has supported
continuing Tornado operations since the UK parliamentary vote in support of air
strikes on 26/9/14.
Operated by the RAF and provided
by AirTanker, whose shareholders include Airbus, Rolls Royce, Thales, Cobham
and Babcock, Voyager is a Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft and a
militarily converted derivative of the A330-200.
To date, the company, which was
appointed by the MOD in 2008, has delivered 10 aircraft under the Future
Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) contract. This includes a core capability of
nine aircraft, which was declared by the MOD this summer. This is made up of
eight aircraft flown by the RAF on the Military Aircraft Register (2x two-point
tankers and 6x three-point tankers) and one aircraft is flown on the CAR by
AirTanker under its own AOC.
AirTanker is currently running a
military to civil conversion on the tenth aircraft at its RAF Brize Norton
operational hub. The delivery of the
11th aircraft is expected in early 2015. A further three aircraft will be
delivered up until the end of 2016, forming a five strong MRTT/A330-200 ‘surge
These aircraft are available to
the MOD if required at time of major conflict. 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.