For the first time ever the Royal Air Force A330 Voyager has flown in formation with a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker, to complete air to air refuelling for British fast jets.

Royal Air Force personnel from Nos. 10 and 101 Squadrons have been undergoing tactical training with the United States Air Force during Exercise Tartan Flag. Crews from the 100th Air Refuelling Wing (100 ARW), a United States Air Force unit, based at RAF Mildenhall, deployed to RAF Brize Norton in order to plan, train and execute mixed formation Air to Air refuelling with the RAF’s Voyager Force.

Flight Lieutenant Jase Orr, Air to Air Refuelling Instructor said:

“This is the first time the A300 Voyager and the KC-135 have refuelled together, it’s amazing to work with the US Air Force, who are used to flying in tank formation. The Voyager doesn’t do this, so it’s an exciting opportunity for the crews to experience how the US Air Force operate.”

This training focuses on preparing the crews, but also strengthens the air tanker force, a facility that may be required for any large scale NATO deployment. Both aircraft will be deployed on Exercise Red Flag 2018, which is an annual aerial combat training exercise held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Exercise Tartan Flag - the First of its KindCaptain Max Hinton, from 100th Air Refuelling Wing said:

“We are training in mixed formation flying for Exercise Red Flag, it’s important to do this to expand on our capabilities and work closer together and it’s also been great fun.”

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I wonder if the aircrews on the old KC-135s looked at the Voyager and thought ‘If only we had ….’

Jack Wyatt

Probably the RAF crews thinking if only we had the KC30s or A330 MRT.

Leo Jones

Why? Is Voyager not as good then? What does it lack?


It lacks a boom.


Patrick – No it doesn’t. We just do not need the system. MRTTs in use with Australia and other Air Forces have the Airbus ‘ARBS’ boom system.

If our fleet larger aircraft changes we can retro fit ARBS.


One of the reasons the US was keen for the UK to join in the Gulf wars was because the RAF could provide tanker support for USN aircraft which use the probe and drogue system like them. The USAF uses the boom system.


Jack – we have a fleet of brand new A330 MRTTs. Called Voyagers in RAF use. All delivered as required and ordered at the same time the USA shafted Airbus over the same aircraft. While the USAF still has no new Boeing KC46 tankers nearly 10 years later.

Jamie Chell

error in this article, either the person quoted was wrong or it’s a typo etc.

This is the first time the A300 Voyager…..

should be A330 Voyager


Um Chris, I think some in the RAF might disagree with that, the C17s, the Rivet Joints and the soon to be P8s can only be refuelled with a boom.

With the P8s not being able to refuel in the air, it’s going to make them far less effective.

Jack Wyatt

Patrick – As I said before, as our fleet of larger aircraft increases we can add the boom system. So maybe the P-8A is the trigger fleet for that upgrade. Given we have only 8 x C-17s and 3 x RC-135s it does not justify the cost and downtime (that by the way is the official RAF line) so we simply do not need booms on the Voyagers right now. We never had them on VC10s or Tristars. And given the US Navy and USMC refuel off Voyagers if we needed that extra support from USAF tankers I am sure… Read more »

Matthew East

Considering at the time they where acquiring the Voyager and what assets they had and knew they would be acquiring that actually should have been getting the boom put in from the get go, Not after the fact but before delivery.

Ian Stevenson

Also, consider this. The A330/MRTT won the US refuelling competition fair and square as the best airframe for the US task. Boeing protested, and the whole competition was resubmitted, Boeing won, pledging to deliver 18 aircraft by August 2017. The promised aircraft have not been delivered, and Boeing has already forfited $2 BiLLION in penalties, to provide an aircraft less capable than the Airbus. The aircraft is still not fully developed, whilst the Airbus has refuelled the F-35 and the B-52 amongst others with its advanced boom system.