Voyager adds US Navy jets to growing list of receivers

Continuing from progress made supporting the UK’s key allies in Middle East operations; an RAF Voyager has successfully conducted refuelling operations with United States Navy F-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

The Growlers, a carrier-based, specialised version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, were first refuelled by an RAF Voyager on 28 October, with the first Super Hornet refuelling taking place on 18 October.

This follows the successful refuelling of United States Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II on 1 October, and French Armée de l’Air Rafale fighters on 26 October. All receivers have been granted special operational clearances to operate with the RAF’s Voyager fleet.

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 fleet’.    

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.

06 November 2014