The Voyager aircraft, named “Vespina”, has completed its refurbishment with a new paint job.

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.

14 Voyagers leased from the company ‘Air Tanker’ are in the Royal Air Force fleet, nine are in the RAF’s “core” capability and the other five are considered “surge” aircraft and are often leased to airlines when not required. It should be noted that one or two of the surge fleet remain in the Air Tanker livery and are often flown permanently on MoD transport duties to the Falklands, Canada and other locations.

The job of this specific Voyager aircraft, say the MoD, is to provide a secure, cost-effective and suitably profiled transport for 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.”

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 transport role, the repainted Voyager aircraft remains certified for its original use of air-to-air refuelling and personnel transport.

Image shows ZZ336.

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.”

According to a statement from the Royal Air Force:

“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 which were developed by AIRBUS. Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group were then chosen to deliver the project on time and within budget.”

The aircraft is used by the Prime Minister, other ministers and senior members of the Royal Family for official engagements.

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.

Voyager key facts:

    • Based on the Airbus A330 aircraft.
    • Weighs 293 tonnes.
    • Has a wingspan of 60m.
    • Can carry 111 tonnes of fuel or 45 tonnes of freight.
    • Has a crew of 2 (pilot and co-pilot) on passenger carrying missions.
    • Has 8 cabin crew when passenger carrying or else 11 cabin crew on VIP tasks.
    • Has a surface area of 2874 metres.
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Robert Blay

Looks absolutely stunning, great job ??????


Absolutely agree.


I really don’t see reason in the public’s resentment of this plane and it’s paint job. It’s near enough the cheapest way of transporting VIPs. Cheaper than chartering jets and cheaper than building a bespoke new one. Like the article mentioned, it’s still qualified as a refuelling aircraft too.


It is media resentment not public resentment. To get to the truth, think diametrically opposed to what the BBC and even the Daily Mail says.


Whilst the media certainly jumped on the topic, I believe it’s all around perception, and I mean this in two ways. Firstly, current timing. The perception and view of the performance of the government and key individuals within it has rarely been lower. When times are bad people will tend to amplify the negatives of any situation – which spirals. If the paintwork needed redone, and they decided for a change which was no more costly than the grey then there’s just an element of bad luck with the timing. Boris Johnson’s Government have been so monumentally inept with PR… Read more »

Rob Collinson

Wow!!! So much better than the predictions. A stunning design and will turn heads everywhere.


Great job, it would have looked even better with a blue belly instead of all white.


I’m a self confessed left of centre person but I have absolutely no problem with this. We need representation around the world. So if this is the royal / PM’s aircraft why do we still need the BAe C2 & C3 aircraft? So we have lost one of our Voyager MRRTs to VIP transport – OK replace it with a new Voyager.


Potentially activate a plane from the surge fleet to replace it as a tanker, perhaps? But then again, if 8 ‘regular’ Voyagers can meet the refuelling requirements then maybe using this as a VIP transport enables a closer to full use of the core fleet which I assume is paid for at a fixed price? Surge aircraft I assume cost money as and when activated?

Are 8 Voyagers enough for current requirements? Anyone know?

Robert Blay

9 are permanently available at Brize. but some of the 5 that can be leased out are used for Falklands and Cyprus air bridges. The fleet as a whole is well used, but still far less then a holiday operator would use them.

Robert Blay

It will still be used for air air refueling, and other military operations, Boris/MP’s and the Royal Family don’t fly around in these aircraft 7 days a week. it’s still a full mission capable Voyager.


Robert not picking a fight here but it is painted white with gold letters on the side. It is not fit or available for military ops. I can’t see why the gov don’t just own up, close down the BA 146 ‘Royal Flight’ and buy another voyager to support the front line.


Rob, it’s a tanker not a stealth bomber. The paint scheme really has no impact on its ability to refuel aircraft. Any enemy capable of downing an RAF tanker will be able to do so with a BVR missile whether it is painted grey or bright pink. What would be the point in buying a new voyager when there are the 5 surge aircraft available? The RAF and the wider armed forces are short of equipment across multiple capabilities, but in my opinion air to air refuelling is not one of them. The Airtanker contract is one of the few… Read more »

Robert Blay

I don’t think it really matters what colour it is when refuelling Typhoons over the North Sea, or transporting pax to Cyprus. And if it was needed somewhere really nasty, the grey would soon be slapped back on. ?

Daniele Mandelli

Royal Flight is long gone Rob. 32 (R) Sqn now.

Voyagers are used for transporting personnel as well as AAR. Not in any tactical role that requires low viz camouflage. If it needs using elsewhere it will be.



Why wouldn’t it be suitable for military ops? The Voyager that took me on OTX’s didn’t benefit in anyway from it’s Grey paintjob.

Andy P

Can’t help but thing BA will be on the phone to their lawyers for copyright issues….

It looks better than I feared although personally I’d have still preferred the ‘roughy toughy’ workhorse look but hey ho.


Love it! It’s a great paint job, clearly promoting the UK and the Royal Air Force. Like the lovely cheat line. The scheme says it all – so add nothing and take nothing away.

But ‘Vespina’? That’s some kind of moth, I understand. Like Boris, I guess – flitting about all over the place…

Daniele Mandelli

Love it. I suggested White too!

Looking good.

Royal Mail horror show confined to history.


It reminds me of the old VC10 and Tristar livery: white, with a blue stripe. Looks nice!

Daniele Mandelli

Agree mate. And the name? I’m not familiar?


As far as I’m aware, Vespina is a Moth.

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, I meant any previous military use. None I’ve heard of myself.

Air Force One….vs Moth! I suppose it might catch on!


I thought so. No, not that I’m aware of, nor does it follow any of the other naming conventions, such as mythology, or individuals of distinction.

They should have named it ‘Sir Winston Churchill’. That would have triggered the haters even more. Especially if they included all of his honours too.

Daniele Mandelli

Now….THAT would have been fantastic! God what a missed opportunity! Fits too.

The USN have a Churchill, we could to.

Great idea.


Time to pen a letter to our local MPs!


I’ve also just noticed the ‘ER’ crown by doors nearest the engines. A nice touch!

Daniele Mandelli

Good spot. I had to zoom in in screen to see.

On another subject. Is there any indication looking at these photos that the aircraft has had any extra kit added? ECM, comms fit, and so on?

I’m not expecting AF1 with escape pods and EMP pulse here, just wondered.

Glass Half Full

I have no idea about anything extra, but it does already come with the Defensive Aids System to counter IR targeting MANPADs, which seems a reasonable benefit for transporting a head of state and a head of government. Also secure military comms system, including satcoms, for its tanker role. And a military air crew trained in the use of such systems. I suspect these are attributes that get overlooked when its suggested to just buy a commercial aircraft.

Daniele Mandelli

Good points GHF. So sufficient for its role I guess.

Harry Bulpit

Doesn’t look bad. Although I can’t say I’m a fan of the RAF Kettering colour.

David Barry

As a daily… ahem… operator, of a bona fide VESPA PX200E I absolutely resent this intrusion into my space.

That, that, that plane almost (almost) puts my bike to shame.



I just don’t get it sorry. The RAF paint job was fine, the plane does the job no matter the colour. It may be I’ve spent to much time scrapping for a couple of thousand pounds here and there to keep important service running. But spending close on a million quid for A vanity paint Job on one aircraft just pisses me off and offends me more than I can ever fully explain. I could have paid for mental health care workers who could look after the mental health of something like 500 ex service personnel or really ill kids… Read more »


Wonder how long it takes for crowds of self righteous demonstrators, with limited subject matter knowldge put it on the “I know fuck all about history and rip shit down” website, and try to climb on the tailplane with a tow rope, a couple of D shackles, and some placards, and try to pull the tail plane down!!!!!!!! ?


That’s turned out really well. I like it. Most of the way there now against a fair amount of media & some public headwinds. In my mind not quite all the way there yet though. It’s got the nice paint job, some defensive aids against missile attack (is that standard on all Voyagers or beefed up for this VIP one?), secure comms which I think were specifically augmented for VIP/Government use, and it can still perform fully in the AAR role and to a lesser extent in the personnel transport role (I assume it’s not as good as the other… Read more »

Andy P

Julian, I ‘get’ the need for a VIP aircraft and I accept that it will be tied (ie maintained/crewed etc) to the MOD. I wouldn’t go as far as your ‘palace with wings’ myself but tomatoe tomato… I’m not keen that we’ve effectively removed a useful military asset for this VIP aircraft, even if they’re trying to pull the ‘hospital ship’ defence. If the government want a swanky jet then it should be funded outwith the MOD budget.


I’m not sure I’d characterise my suggestion as a “palace with wings”, I’d more say a “porta-cabin with wings”. A basic proper single-person berth rather than a lie-flat recliner with a flimsy curtain around it and a proper sit-around table to do pre-meeting planning, or crisis management if something kicks off back home when a PM is en-route (within a soundproof cabin in case classified info needs to be discussed), rather than squatting at the foot of each other’s chairs to talk, or having snatched conversations in aisles, doesn’t seem too much to ask. I wouldn’t disagree with you about… Read more »

Andy P

The way you say it the free and easy approach to budgets shouldn’t be an issue but surely that’s not the point of departments having budgets if other stuff out of their control just lands on their desk. I’m a fan of having a more holistic approach to budgets, the small minded ‘MY’ budget often isn’t helpful but this just seems a bit cavalier to me. Not that my views will be sought on the matter. 😉