Boris Johnson has said he “probably needs” to have a “Brexit jet”, after complaining that the RAF Voyager assigned to transport ministers “never seems to be available”.

The Foreign Secretary Boris claimed that revealed its multiple users mean it is difficult for senior ministers to book when they need it, saying:

“What I will say about the Voyager, I think it’s great, but it seems to be very difficult to get hold of. It never seems to be available. I don’t know who uses it, but it never seems to be available.”

And he added: “Also, why does it have to be grey?”

Because it’s a taxpayer funded, military aircraft Mr Johnson.

Asked if he would like to have a “Brexit plane”, he told reporters:

“If there’s a way of doing it that is not exorbitantly expensive then yes I think we probably do need something. The taxpayers won’t want us to have some luxurious new plane, but I certainly think it’s striking that we don’t seem to have access to such a thing at the moment.”

The aircraft of 32 Squadron are available to VIP passengers only if not needed for military operations. Two flights within the squadron operate the British Aerospace 146 and AgustaWestland AW109. In addition, a refitted Voyager is usually tasked with flying senior ministers to global events and summits and is still fully capable of its original role as a tanker.

The Voyager aircraft has been refitted at a cost of about £10m, in order to save about £775,000 per year as the plane will be cheaper than chartering flights, delivering significant savings for the tax payer.

The Airbus A330 Voyager is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft with transport capabilities and is based on the civilian Airbus A330. The multi-role A330 tanker/transport has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Air Force, United Arab Emirates Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force.

Official flights using either Royal Squadron planes or long haul charter, cost on average £6,700 per flying hour while using a Voyager aircraft would cost £2,000. It would be available for refuelling when it wasn’t in use.

The refit involved 58 business seats being fitted with the Ministry of Defence saying this will “allow it to transport sizeable business delegations”.

A government spokesperson said:

“As part of the government’s defence review, we have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers. We have decided to adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that, in addition to its primary air tanking role, it can transport Ministers and it will also be available for the Royal family to use.”


  1. So basically he’s saying, “the tax payers don’t want me to have a nice luxurious aircraft but I want one anyway”… Also, how is it “striking” if the tax payer doesn’t want it? Sounds like he is jealous of Donald doesn’t it?

    • Boris would be more equivalent to the Secretary of State rather than Donald. On his recent trip to North Korea, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, flew on a C-32A, a modified Boeing 757-200, that the US Air Force acquired used in 2010.

      The USAF is looking to replace its C-32As. Maybe Boris could buy Mike’s..

      • Agree, get Phil to cough up for three of Pompeos old jets. Have one fitted as Royal Air, one for PM/Foreign, Defence and Trade Secretaries and one in reserve. If it saves on business class or chartered and you can sell seats to business delegates or journos then it’s a decent investment. I’d even dare to suggest contracting out servicing and staff if MOD can’t spare crews.

  2. Well done Bojo. Keep reminding us what an absolute prat you are. Don’t criticise Voyager’s availability. Speak to Gavin and Phil about converting a second one into a VIP fit instead! There are four aircraft at Brize fully paid for, fully funded, not doing very much. And as for it being grey, we’ll, words fail me…

    • I don’t even now why they needs converted I’m sure there are plenty of economy class seats already installed and available for him to sit in.

  3. Thank goodness Boris is speaking out – don’t we all wish that the U.K’s military assets were all painted in much prettier colours? Oh, hang on – no we don’t. What a prat that guy is.

    • (Chris H) Julian – No the guy is not a prat for suggesting a more UK promoting livery for the one aircraft allocated to VIP duties. An aircaft whose callsign becomes ‘UK ONe’ when in VIP duties no less. And you really are better than that ‘prettier colours’ comment and fabricating he suggested changing all our military assets’ colours.

      Oh hang on – the Red Arrows are already in ‘pretty colours’ so lets paint them grey shall we?

      • We’ll have to agree to differ on the livery I think. I accept that my “all … in prettier colours” was over the top, I was parodying for effect/failed-humour and fully accept that wasn’t what Boris said. I still think the basic point though is that the current VIP transport is a multi-role asset so when it’s not transporting VIPs it might be doing AAR or transporting military personnel. For what seems, at least to me, the very minor benefit of having some sort of UK/VIP branding I don’t think it’s worth messing with its military colours and compromising, even very slightly, its primary military roles. The Red Arrows are, as far as I’m aware, sole-use assets so there I have no problem choosing the most appropriate colours for that sole use (i.e. red).

        For the record I’m pretty supportive of VIP transports for the PM at least. I was infuriated by all the negative publicity when the VIP transport conversion for the single Voyager was announced because I thought (and still think) that it was/is an extremely clever and cost-effective solution. I actually wish the VIP conversion had gone further for PM use. From the pictures it’s little more than decent business class seats. Our PM, whoever they might be at the time, is invariably on tight schedules and under a lot of pressure so I would have preferred to see the front few rows of the original Voyager seating converted into a proper cabin, maybe something similar in size to an Astute class captain’s cabin, so that our PM could arrive in Washington or Tokyo or Beijing or wherever fully refreshed and at 100% capability on arrival and also have facilities for confidential meetings and quiet (as quiet as it ever is on a plane) workspace en-route.

        Maybe one solution, if there really are issues with availability of the VIP transport that scheduled flights can’t address, might be to convert a second plane to a VIP seating arrangement. We have pretty good personnel transport capacity elsewhere in the RAF so the small loss of capacity on military seating wouldn’t be a huge issue and it wouldn’t compromise its AAR role in any way (sorry – in my world it stays grey – the RAF roundels give off a really strong message anyway in my view, perhaps even stronger than some sort of UK-One branding). If they did convert a second Voyager for VIP transport I’d like to see my “Astute captains cabin” done for that second conversion so that it becomes the default PM plane and other ministers that really can’t get a scheduled flight timing to work for them get the currently converted one (or the PM one if they’re really lucky and the PM doesn’t need it).

        P.S. – I appreciate the “you really are better than that” comment in your reply. I respect your right to take exception to my opinion and to my parodying what he actually said – thanks for keeping our disagreement civilised & respectful Chris.

  4. I mean I’m probably with him on this, much as I’m not at all a fan of the current government. If a success is to be made of this Global Britain waffle, I’d wager both Johnson and Fox need their own planes to make it to meetings all over the world multiple times per week.

  5. I’d rather see a new Royal Yacht brought into service as part of Global Britain.

    And as for a lack of availability, why not simply convert another airframe, or bring one of the leased aircraft back into RAF service for this purpose when said lease expires?

    • Yes I wouldn’t mind another royal yacht, it would be a bit of welcome extra work for our shipyards. Could we build another type 31 hull and base it on that?

  6. As always when Boris speaks many leap to denigrate him or misrepresent what he has said ignoring the full context. Sometimes he does talk utter rubbish but mostly he has it right even if the way he does it is ‘odd’. The man is who he is and never tries to be anything else. He is one of the few conviction politicians about and isn’t afraid to rock the boat now and again. Doesn’t mean he is always right and on this he is both right and wrong

    So he highlights that the Government has more Ministers off on International trips (as we start to emerge from under the shadow of the EU) and there is a need for more Government owned aircraft to support our future needs. He isn’t wrong.

    So he suggests having a grey painted aircraft that is used on such work should be reviewed. He isn’t wrong. I can well remember VC-10s in that superb white over blue lightning stripe livery. We have 14 A330s so whats wrong with having the VIP one painted to better represent the UK as it starts looking more global. When its on tanking duties it need never be in a combat zone. Maggie said the same thing and added ‘put a Union Flag on the tail!’. And why not?

    Where he is wrong is creating the impression he wants some personal luxury aircraft for himself.

    • Agree.

      Because it is Boris people jump on the bandwagon.

      I’d happily have a Royal Yaught and a Voyager in Union Jack Livery in an attempt to get Britain out onto the world forming relationships and making deals.

    • Yes we definitely need “U.K. air one”, and the yacht and similar. If we are going to be global Britain we should be doing all of this and also reusing the DFID budget to create a dedicated hospital ship x2 and similarly x2 hospital airplanes with a big UKAID stuck on the side. Then station them round the world where they are need with option to ring back and use in the U.K. as needed.

  7. I was thinking I’m on my own here until I got to Levi.

    I think we are barking mad not having at least four dedicated Brexit planes – fully fitted out, meaning serious business and able to take ministers, civil servants & business delegates around the world. PM, FM, BM & Royals should each have one.

    It’s a mad job. You wouldn’t have senior business leaders slumming it because its just to gaddam demanding. Most people have no clue whatsoever just how ruinous it is to health & relationships at the pace the job needs to be done.

    Would be top of my shopping list – let’s mean business!

  8. A little context to this would help:
    “Asked by reporters if he would like a “Brexit plane”, Mr Johnson said he would – if costs were not “exorbitant”.”

    He was answering a question posed to him. Anybody if asked such a question would have answered with a statement that was positive towards them. Remember the Media is not your friend.

  9. Don’t agree any Government VIP aircraft should come from Voyager fleet. This is yet another waste of the defence budget and precious tanker/transports. If the blonde buffoon wants a jet, let his department pay for it. If Fox wants a jet, let his dept pay for it.

    And as for the comment that BJ is a “conviction politician” well I’m gobsmacked. The biggest political chancer in town and a national embarrassment

    • (Chris H) – Julian1 – Just because he holds a different political point of view does not of itself mean he isn’t a conviction politician and you adding abusive comments really just adds nothing. Boris, like him or loathe him, follows his beliefs and instincts (ie conviction) and stands up and says so. There wasn’t too much political benefit in his fighting on behalf of Brexit was there? He campaigned for what he thought was right and against the might of the Establishment, Government, his own party and many so called ‘experts’. But because he won he is denigrated by Remoaners.

      Margaret Thatcher was a conviction politician and followed her instincts. This eventually caused her downfall as the ‘wets’ and Euro luvvies connived to further their own pet EU project.

      If you want the perfect example of someone who was not a conviction politician look no further than Teflon Tony Bliar. (Did I spell that right?). Never believed in anything, followed the popular route and manipulated everything for his own benefit. No Juilian if you want ‘The biggest political chancer in town and a national embarrassment’ you can enjoy Mr Blair. But I suspect he is more in line with your personal politics and so you will not recognise what a fraud he was.

      • he was pro-eu and chose to go brexit to support his own aims. ’nuff said. btw, he rather revels in the term ‘blonde buffoon’ so its hardly abusive.

        • (Chris H)
          “He was pro – EU” …. Julian that has to be one of the biggest misrepresentations I have witnessed on here. Where were his ‘personal aims’ being met when Leave were 10 points behind Remain? Where was he looking after his political career by going against the Prime Minister, Chancellor and the entire Government machine by supporting Brexit? No that was conviction politics at its best. And like him or loathe him so was Nigel Farage who campaigned for the same thing for over 20 years and never wavered.

          Any advantage came after he was instrumental in winning the vote not before. Had he lost Cameron / Osborne would have exacted revenge and he would have been history.

          • Chris Julian is right on this one, David Cameron was stunned when Boris announced he was backing the leave campaign.

            So much has happened in politics since the referendum that this seems to be forgotten.

            Remember the article he wrote for the telegraph that he decided not to publish a few days before the campaign started?

            He said continued membership of the EU would be a “boon for the world and for Europe”.

            “It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty, while embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country – low skills, low social mobility, low investment etc – that have nothing to do with Europe.”

            and “This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

            The words of Boris Johnson, in a column that never made it to print a few days before he backed the leave campaign.

            I have a bit of respect for the likes of Farage and co for their consistent views on leaving the EU, but Boris Johnson is a career politician and a full blown chancer.

          • “No that was conviction politics at its best”

            That genuinely did make me laugh out loud at my computer.

            I will give you credit though Chris, you would give Goebbels and Alistair Campbell a run for their money with the tory propeganda you spout on here haha

  10. It is more than a fair point. Most states have aircraft of this nature in a ‘state’ scheme and many of them are far poorer than the UK. I don’t see why one or even two Voyagers couldn’t get a VIP fit and a more stately paint job whilst still being able to perform tanking and transport duties when required. TriStars were still in a hi-viz scheme as late as 2009 and were very quickly covered in that sandy paint job in ’91.

  11. Chris conviction politicians don’t write 2 columns for after the Brexit referendum depending on the outcome like BoJo did, they done ruffle there hair 1 minute before cameras are turned on, they don’t sleep around like old Boris does, they don’t plagiarize other writers columns like BoJo has done, if this man is your idea of a great man god help us.

  12. It’s sad that people are defending him, although it is the resident UKDJ tory apologist so it’s to be expected. (just a bit of banter Chris)

    And it’s hilarious people are suggesting “Brexit planes”

    Has anyone seen the galleries club at Heathrow? if people think business class on a British airways flight with drinks at the galleries club before is “slumming it” then Jesus Christ.

    Do people actually think we stick the foreign secretary on a Jet2 flight sat in-between stag do’s?

    It’s good that we have a Jet for the Royal Family and the government to use, but it really should be used for just the Royal Family and the Prime Minister.

    And btw it’s grey because it’s still used for refuelling duties when its not carrying VIP’s.

    Oh yeah lets refuel our typhoons with a jet covered in a Union Jack that sticks out like a sore thumb.

    I have visions of some people on here wanting our paras to have union jack parachutes like Roger Moore in the spy who loved me.

    • Bit OTT there Sole on the paras! Good bond film that one.

      I think what people are getting at are not Brexit planes as you say but pushing a brand, that brand being an independent UK with our well known flag.

      If a Voyager is not on military duties but VIP duties I don’t see why a bit of noticeable branding is a problem, especially if one of the 5 spares is used.

      The Royal Family is another brand that puts the UK on the map, that sort of thing, so are the reds.

      Every little helps and I don’t see the harm it can do if we have the spare capacity in those extra planes.

      • Yeah was just having a little joke.

        I get where you’re coming from a little bit but I don’t think our trade ministers landing in a branded jet is going to seal any deal, we need competent ministers, a strong well funded civil service, and good British products and services, thats whats going to matter.

        London didn’t do the unthinkable and overtake New York as the worlds largest and most important financial centre with the Union Jack, it did it with world leading services, world leading infrastructure and the amazing people in the city.

        In regard to the Royals they should really have their own large private jet, separate from the government, in maroon red with the chivalric order of the garter emblazoned on the side, just like the her majesty’s helicopter. And I wouldn’t let a single MP ever step foot on it.

        The Royal family using a converted military transport aircraft, now that’s shit.

        • Of course not! No one is suggesting a flag would do that but again it is advertising, pushing a brand.Of course we need the competency and skills behind it.

          I say why not use both. A not like using hard and soft power.

          As for your suggestion on a Royal Jet in Maroon, fully agree a fantastic idea.
          Let HM pay for it though as there would be uproar otherwise. Does not bother me one jot if taxpayers paid for it as I’m a proud monarchist but I understand why some get funny over funding.

          • I think the taxpayer should pay for it.

            Profits from the crown estate that go directly to the treasury in 2017 was £328.8m.

            The total cost of the Royal family in 2017 including the Queens sovereign grant, earnings from the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall ceded to the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and all security expenses is £292m

            So the governent made a sweet £40m last year from the monarchy.

            Also taking into account that Brand Finance estimates that in 2017 the Monarchy generated a gross uplift of £1.766 billion to the UK economy.

            It’s a myth that they are a burden to the taxpayer.

          • Agree.

            Refreshing for me that someone else sees the value of the monarchy and not just for traditional pomp and ceremony reasons.

      • Agree. We need to advertise and show off the best of this country in any way we can. Air U.K. one, yacht, hospital ships etc etc.

  13. I believe the RAF has 14 Voyagers. A voyager scambles every time the QRA scrambles, that’s 2 for North and South and presumably a spare 1 just in case there’s another scramble when the Voyagers themselves are refuelling or changing crew if that’s what they do. Then there’s the ops from Cyprus, Syria and Iraq, surely needing 3 as well. And are there any kept ready in case of a mission from the UK? What about Romania? There are Typhoons out there, or were.

    And then there’s the 15 Uk owned F35-B in the USA, you’d think one or more Voyagers would train with them sometime, maybe a nozzle isn’t just a nozzle, or the comms don’t comm. Why risk a £100 million aircraft running out of fuel mid-Atlantic and ditching when 9 of them come to the Uk fairly soon? Sure, it’s within ferry range, but why take chances? What about other exercises? And then there’s service, repair, maintenance – and upgrades even if just to software. Not to mention general training flights. With all the UK does, 14 is quite scant.

    And Boris wonders what the adapted Voyager might be doing,and why he can’t just take one to jet over to the US for his Southern Fried Chlorinated Chicken and fries …

    … does he want some sauce with that?

  14. All in all Boris has taken quite a pasting today, poor fella! Dadsarmy, you forgot the voyager at mount pleasant too

  15. Regardless of which party is in power, the UK needs to look credible to other nations. We do not want to look like a has been nation.
    Other nations have business jets & we should too.
    Yes, it is a time of austerity, but buying a single Bombardier Global 5000 (probably near new, 2nd hand) for 32 Sqn, would save money in the long run.
    A Global 5000 can operate from Northolt.

  16. Almost every other country has proper VIP jets with national colours and flags and crests on to fly their royal/presidential/ministerial official visitors around.
    I never understand why the UK is so against the idea?
    We still end up paying out to charter jets anyway, and, at least with an official one it is available whenever, is secure, and, represents the nations in style.
    When the royals visit Australia or Canada they do so on a RCAF/RAAF official airbus with flags and national coat of arms proudly displayed. You see that in all the photos as they arrive and wave etc etc.
    Then they fly for the UK, often in a chartered aircraft with a company logo on, and occasionally in the Voyager which is boring grey.
    Why the difference? These things all make an impression. We send them to drum up trade and diplomatic influence so why not give them the tools for the job?

    • Agree Leo

      I understand VERY WELL why the UK does not have same.

      It is all part of the madness that is the modern UK. What is the norm for others cannot possibly be right for the UK.

  17. The voyagers leased out to the private sector are in civilian paint scheme – probably white with easy apply decals. Wouldn’t it make sense to bring one of these back to operational RAF service with VIP fit and use that? The aircraft are there, they just need their private leases terminated and brought back to 10/101

  18. I think the VOYAGER Fleet is more like 9 in operational service at Brize Norton, with another 5 on call at 7 days notice if required for Operations. Converting one for Royal and Ministerial use seemed sensible, but did that require an uplift of one of the commercial reserve aircraft, thereby changing the terms of the PFI, or was it achieved by reducing 9 to 8? Perhaps the Government is rueing the day they scrapped the 6 perfectly serviceable and useful HS125-800 Business jets of 32 Sqn, which were mainly used for ferrying Govt Ministers everywhere so they could avoid airport lounges!!!!! (Granted they didnt have the range beyond Europe, but could be ferried to a Theatre of Ops, so could have in theory supported the For Sec on his current South American jaunt.)

  19. Since I firmly believe that senior public servants ( as well as junior ones) should be using the most cost effective option and travelling just like the rest of us as:

    1) I want my taxes to pay for my children’s education, families health,protection (police,military) and civic amenities, not perks for the leaders.
    2) The ruling classes need to be continually (and somwhat forcefully on occasion) grounded in the rest of societies reality. Not for some communist ideal but for their own good, our own good and our societies future (I need an airplane is to close to “let them eat cake” for my liking).

  20. Do we want war to break out because our foreign secretary is stuck in an airport lounge waiting for a connection, rather than being at the peace talks?
    Do we want a multi billion contract to go to a competitor nation that turned up in its own smart jet, while we turn up late & have to go early, because of airline schedules?
    That contract could have secured many skilled working class jobs, but we are willing for them to be unemployed, because of reverse snobbery against business jets?
    I do not want our great & good to live like billionaires, but whether Conservatives, Labour or a coalition is in power, they need the basic tools to properly represent Great Britain.
    One near new, 2nd hand Global 5000, would keep us credible & probably save money on charters & air fares.

    • Can you tell me the last time any British foreign secretary was late or completely missed any overseas arrangement because of a flight cancellation or delay?

      More amazingly, can you tell me the name of the last war that started because of peace talk failure because one member missed the talks?

      • Do you want to risk it?
        The USA & Britain went to war in 1812, because of a breakdown in communication causing the Americans to misjudge the British intentions. Lets not repeat a similar breakdown in modern times.

  21. Just shows how disconnected politicians are to the services they have singed off on.

    Boris can have his own jet – after all there are 4 voyagers that are not within the fleet at the moment and are leased out to Thomas Cook I believe.

    He can paint it whatever colour he wants – so long as his department pay for it in full and dont expect a freebie. The other thing is that it must be made available for a portion of its time to do its real job.

    This is really a non story – we have spare craft, if you want one find a way to support our forces in having the equipment they should have and part of that will be more aircraft will be available.


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