The UK Royal Air Force has completed its refurbishment to one of the fleet of Airbus Voyager/KC-30 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) to provide a secure, cost-effective and suitably profiled transport for the UK government ministers and the royal family.
The aircraft now proudly displays the Union Flag alongside RAF markings and is ready to represent the UK across the globe – the new paint scheme will promote the UK around the world while transporting ministers, senior members of the royal family and their delegations on trade, diplomatic and other missions.
After weeks of work, the Voyager returned to RAF Brize Norton where it will operate alongside the rest of the RAF Voyager fleet. Alongside its VIP role, the aircraft remains certified for its original use, including air-to-air refuelling and personnel transport.
Air Commodore Simon Edwards, the senior responsible officer for the project, said, "This project was a privilege to have been involved in and I am delighted to have seen it delivered so quickly and efficiently, together with our industry partners. The aircraft’s new paint scheme will better reflect its prestige role which we are proud to undertake."
It can fly from and to almost any airport across the world that can take an Airbus A330, and its range allows it to reach much of the world without costly and time-consuming refuelling.
The aircraft, known as Vespina and also often referred to as 'ZZ336', which is its military registration number, was previously visually indistinguishable from the rest of the Operational Voyager Fleet.
This external paint scheme will better reflect its VIP mission and contribution to ‘Global Britain’. The paintwork concludes a refurbishment stemming from the 2015 SDSR.
The project first created and agreed an outline design before being modified to account for commercial, legal, operational and design needs. This process was not only about the visual design, this was a complex engineering project requiring detailed drawings that were developed by Airbus.
Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group was then chosen to deliver the project on time and within budget.
Voyager is the RAF’s sole air-to-air refuelling (AAR) tanker and also operates as a strategic air transport. The aircraft is in service as the Voyager KC.Mk 2, equipped with two underwing pods for refuelling fast jets, and as the Voyager KC.Mk 3, with an additional centreline hose for use by large aircraft.
The RAF's Voyager tankers are similar to the Royal Australian Air Force's KC-30A MRTT platform – the KC-30A MRTT is fitted with two forms of air-to-air refuelling systems: an advanced refuelling boom system mounted on the tail of the aircraft and a pair of all-electric refuelling pods under each wing.
These systems are controlled by an air refuelling operator in the cockpit, who can view refuelling on 2D and 3D screens. The KC-30A can carry a fuel load of more than 100 tonnes and transfer part of that load to compatible aircraft, including:
- F/A-18A/B Hornets;
- F/A-18F Super Hornets;
- E/A-18G Growlers;
- E-7A Wedgetails;
- C-17A Globemaster III; and
- Other KC-30As.
The KC-30A MRTT can remain 1,800 kilometres from its home base with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours. In its transport role, the KC-30A is capable of carrying 270 passengers. It comes with under-floor cargo compartments that can accommodate 34,000 kilograms of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.
The RAAF's six KC-30A aircraft are based at RAAF Base Amberley, operated by No. 33 Squadron.
In 2015, the Australian government announced the purchase of a sixth and seventh KC-30A aircraft, and under the 2016 Defence White Paper, an eighth and ninth aircraft are under consideration.
The Australian Air Force also confirmed that one of the two additional KC-30As would be converted to include a VIP interior to provide long-range, secure airlift capabilities for government needs and will support the recently acquired Dassault Falcon 7x.