The MoD are refusing to let the Chancellor Philip Hammond use transport aircraft until the Treasury settles an unpaid debt for previous flights with No 32 Squadron.
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.
According to the Times, an order had been issued to officials responsible for trips not to let Mr Hammond make any more bookings.
“At the same time as claiming our brave armed forces don’t need any more money and that the army only needs 50,000 troops, it is a huge double standard to willingly use the armed forces’ facilities at the same time as refusing to pay for them,” the source told the Times.
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.”
The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330. The A330 MRTT 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.