The Ministry of Defence have confirmed that there are no plans to fit booms to the Voyager tanker aircraft.

The fitting of a boom would enable the aircraft to refuel aircraft such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint intelligence gathering aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and the future E-7 Wedgetail early warning aircraft.

The information came to light in response to a Parliamentary question.

Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, stated:

“RAF Voyager aircraft use a hose and drogue refuelling system. We have no current plans to fit an aerial refuelling boom system to the Voyager aircraft.”

In 2016, I spoke to former deputy Commander of Operations Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, and was told:

“If money and feasibility was no object the RAF would very much like the flexibility of a boom on at least some of their Voyagers.”

Gareth Jennings at Janes previously covered this topic here.

A Voyager tanker refuelling Tornado jets over Iraq in 2016, the aircraft is using the hose and drogue system.

The flying boom is a rigid, telescoping tube with movable flight control surfaces that an operator on the tanker aircraft extends and inserts into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. All boom-equipped tankers (e.g. KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender) have a single boom, and can refuel one aircraft at a time with this mechanism.

Voyager in Australian service, designated KC-30A in the Royal Australian Air Force, is equipped with both an Aerial Refuelling Boom System and two Cobham 905E under-wing refuelling pods.

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BB85
BB85
3 days ago

Would it be cheaper to swap one of the aircraft with France if they already have one. I’m guess the mod just plan to borrow one if we ever need it for long patrols.

Steve M
Steve M
3 days ago

Serious lack of fore thought and strategic planning 🙁 but we have our ‘Special relationship’ and the US (maybe the Aussies,French,Singapores,UAE,Saudi, Koreans) we are the ONLY Users who can’t refuel our larger A/C

TwinTiger
TwinTiger
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Add to that, during multi-national exercises or operations, the RAF Voyagers also cannot support other airforce’s jets that only accept boom refuelling.
Limited capacity indeed.

Johan
Johan
3 days ago
Reply to  TwinTiger

for them maybe, work for the UK.

Johan
Johan
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

When ORDERED there was no Flying Boom tankers available. so not lack of planning. LACK OF OPTIONS…

Steve M
Steve M
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

First MRTT delivered was Aussie in 2011 with BOOM (2 years late yes) first Voyager 2011, then next 8 til 2014 so it was available especially for the later airframes.

Ambivalent Lurker
Ambivalent Lurker
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Airbus did have some major issues with the MRTT boom oscillating when deployed (to the point that one was torn off during testing: https://www.flightglobal.com/airbus-military-explains-cause-of-a330-boom-detachment/107483.article). Boom fueling is not as simple as some people make out, its far more complex than probe and drogue.I believe you also get additional aero drag from the boom when its stowed plus tailstrike protection requirements and COG changes on the jet which can impact on the plane being used as a transport. as the boom needs to be “flown” by the tanker crew, the new tankers dont have a rear bubble for the boom pilot… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 days ago

There is another benefit of using a boom arrangement for refuelling over the drogue system. A boom refueler operates at a higher line pressure than a drogue. Therefore it can transfer more fuel in a shorter amount of time, which is more pertinent for widebody aircraft than fighters. Though it does mean a fighter is also topped up much quicker and therefore can get back on task sooner.

George Parker
George Parker
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Based on analysis of past performance. Forethought and strategic planning are not terms one associates with MoD procurements. Why were they not fitted from day one and who is going to be demoted / loose their job and pension for the cockup?
The jobs for life civil service is in need of an overhaul.

TwinTiger
TwinTiger
3 days ago

The RAF aircraft listed above that do not have a refuelling probe could be refuelled aloft by coalition/allied/NATO air-tankers with a refuelling boom, but will they be permitted to, under the AirTanker agreement?

Last edited 3 days ago by TwinTiger
Steve M
Steve M
3 days ago
Reply to  TwinTiger

RAF Voyagers do not have ability to be refueled in flight either by boom or drogue. They can’t even tank each other the give longer range for things like taking jets to MPN.

Johan
Johan
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

due to the larger A340 wing, and tanks in that wing endurance of crew is more an issue than the aircraft. and is planned by ATA not the RAF, so works.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 days ago
Reply to  TwinTiger

Yes

Johan
Johan
3 days ago
Reply to  TwinTiger

Yes been doing it Air tanker also refuel other alliance aircraft

Rob Collinson
Rob Collinson
3 days ago

Madness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrew
Andrew
3 days ago

Christ the mod and government are useless. It would probably be cheaper to purchase a couple of boom voyagers then to retrofit and way.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

Yes. Airbus offered MOD this precise solution. Take back a number of Voyagers in exchange for reconditioned A330s taken from the leasing market and convert them to the same standard as RAF Voyagers plus a boom. It would have only cost MOD the cost of the conversion. The reply was interesting, but there is no requirement.

Robert COLLINSON
Robert COLLINSON
3 days ago

As I said. Total lunacy. Madness!!

Johan
Johan
3 days ago

The Cost of the Conversion,
1/ Voyergers are not a standard A330s
2/ Cost of conversion was not cheap.
3/ RAF and Air Tanker would need to retrain.
4/ Extra cost of the boom operator.

the Voyagers are a Modified A330 fitted with an A340 wing for increased fuel load, the wing pods are fitted to the outer engine mounting.

When has the RAF ever needed to fly a boom, and Chobham had been tasked with feasibility to attach booms to the P8s E7s. but with these modern jets they are always in touch with a home base

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Having been part of the programme from 2007 to 2017, I think I know a bit what I’m talking about. Second hand aircraft in excellent condition would have effectively come for free. PFI was prepared to fund cost of conversion thus requiring no up front funds to be identified in the equipment budget. Converting aircraft from scratch easier than modifying existing Voyagers. AirTanker could have made available sponsored reserve boomers so no additional drain on non existent RAF personnel. Allies would have welcomed additional capability. Not to mention RAF ISTAR community. Many RAF seniors were sold on the idea. But… Read more »

Johan
Johan
1 day ago

Amazing your say you worked on it, yet claim to select the wrong aircraft.

did you work for BAEs on MRA4 and get the sack. sounds like if you did a better job on the project Air Tanker would have Booms.

2nd hand airframes over a 27 year lease will be more expensive.

WHY IT WAS REJECTED.

delivery projects ON PAPER is easy, Delivery a working platform after you have left is different.

LongTime
LongTime
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Johan, that may have been a bit of a silly comment SR has openly mentioned on many threads, that he was involved in Voyager and A400M(if memory serves).
Personally Boom is becoming necessary if we continue to purchase American designed ‘larger’ assets as they will only be fitting boom to them.

*Edit* SR has beat me to it.

Last edited 2 days ago by LongTime
Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  LongTime

get you tounge out…… man is a paper jockey, fucks it up and runs away

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
1 day ago
Reply to  LongTime

Thank you LT. you are right. Several years both on A400M and Voyager. Retired. Wasn’t sacked! Hahaha. 35 years working on complex defence programmes after short service commission. Voyager looks like it does and was delivered how it was because that’s how the customer specified it. People like Johan are not worth talking with. Cheers

Johan
Johan
21 hours ago

Yep we know the type, BILLY NO MATES, you state you worked on the MRRTs yet dont know the basics. did your work involve cleaning the office toilets? MITILDA, people like you are not worth talking to. as no one wants you.go dribble down your chin….

John N
John N
3 days ago

Video of an RAAF KC-30A refuelling another RAAF KC-30A, handy capability to have:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_eqJ_N8gde0

Cheers,

Jake
Jake
3 days ago

I guess they’re in the mindset that they’ve got away with it for long enough and that the current situation is somehow working, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can only independently refuel four aircraft types in the RAF fleet (five if you include a400 but not sure if we have that operational capability) which will soon be one less when the C-130s are retired. Not to mention that the Voyagers themselves can’t be refuelled and are therefore range limited to the fuel they have in their tanks minus the fuel offloaded to refuelling aircraft. Lets just hope… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago
Reply to  Jake

Well, the shit did hit the fan in Kabul the other week, one of the remotest airports to reach from the UK. 15,000 people evacuated, and fuel and endurance was not a problem for the RAF transport/tanker fleet.

Chris
Chris
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Because the US refueled RAF C-17’s with KC-135’s.

David Steeper
David Steeper
2 days ago
Reply to  Chris

In the same way RAF tankers often refuel USN aircraft.

Mikem
Mikem
2 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

But they wouldn’t have to reach Kabul from the UK. They would be refueled in Akrotiri on the way out and most of the flights were shuttling people back and forth to Qatar.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 days ago
Reply to  Mikem

So it wasn’t a problem then

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  Mikem

Correct in the modern era Voyergers can even get to South Atlantic from the UK. Without refueling. BLACK BUCK NEEDED HOW MANY from Ascension.

People Stuck in the past.

Geoffi
Geoffi
3 days ago

Do we EVER do anything for operational reasons rather than cost grounds ???

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago
Reply to  Geoffi

Yes. Hence why we are operating Voyager. An extremely capable asset.

Johan
Johan
3 days ago

Just to confirm so all the pant wetters hysteria

WHEN ORDERED IN 2004 To replace the Tri-Star Vc-10 tanker fleets, THERE WAS NO SUITABLE FLYING BOOM OPTION OPERATIONAL.

RAAF had ordered the Voyager With Boom in 2005, entered service in 2013,
RAF Voyagers Entered Service 2011.

as per other Airbus defense programs and much like Boeings Flying boom, an over-complicated operating system means it was another 3 years before boom operations were fully resolved.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Wasting your breath with some of these plonkers pal.

Robert COLLINSON
Robert COLLINSON
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

UK were offered the boom option at time of order, but turned it down – to save money! A real own goal yet again by all at MoD.

Johan
Johan
1 day ago

Boom wasn’t operational it was a new concept and design UK ordered 14 MRRTs, Australia Ordered 5 with Booms. did we need booms?
cost implications over numbers

Andy a
Andy a
1 day ago
Reply to  Johan

Sounds like booms would be another U.K. MOD everything gold plated and twice the cost situation, everyone on here says buy off the shelf, well guys that’s what they did.

Klonkie
Klonkie
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

thanks for the clarity on this Johan, brings some perspective to the topic

Steve
Steve
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Airbus was well on the way trialling their boom on an Airbus 310 test aircraft in 2004 – the technology was maturing at the time of the Voyager offer. C-17s were already in service though Nimrod MR4 was till the intended ASW solution, and no RAF RC-135s had been ordered then.

Steve M
Steve M
3 days ago
Reply to  Johan

First End USER MRTT delivered was RAAF in June 2011 (2 years late which for Airbus is better than the norm) so as you state first Voyager was in 2011 so it was an option which back then we only had c-17 i think taht needed boom. but we now have increase the number of types that will need it. So as we still have 20 years(ish) on the 30 year contract wouldn’t it be prudent to consider it?

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  Steve M

Agree it would, but the last feasibility study would have converted the Voyager KC3, and remove the central line hose. and install a boom. and all the extra required equipment and structural requirements.
Air Tanker who don’t forget is partly owned by Airbus, priced this work and increase on the £25k per hour.

RAF Top Brass when shown this feasibility study rejected the cost as to expensive to modify the fleet.

11 years into the contract @ fixed cost. and we want to move the goal posts.

changing ones predecessors ideas is when the MOD screws up

Matthew
Matthew
2 days ago
Reply to  Johan

To be fully factual the UK received their first aircraft in 2011 yes, However they also suffered from an issue with the drogue which delayed certification to begin operational use. It wasn’t until 16 May 2013 that the Voyages got this certification to begin AAR. The RAAF at the same time had issues with the boom and drogue, They achieved IOC (Drogue worked but not boom at time) in Febuary 2013. Both the RAAF and RAF aircraft starter operational deployed used in the same month when deployed again ISIL. For all the talk that there wasnt a boom around the… Read more »

Marked
Marked
3 days ago

Of course there are no plans. Why do something that would act as a multiplier for our scarce resources?

The MOD are our worst enemies.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
3 days ago
Reply to  Marked

All RAF fast jets are hose capable, not boom. C17 A400 P8 E7 R1 all have very long endurance. Voyager uses it’s own fuel for A2A refueling, it’s internal fuel capacity is that large, it isn’t fitted with a large tank inplace of seats or freight capacity making it very flexible. I’d rather see a few A400’s fitted with A2A refueling capability then worry about booms on Voyager.

Robert COLLINSON
Robert COLLINSON
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

They cannot do that due to the contract with AirTanker. They have complete sole UK service. Any other option is forbidden under their contract. More lunacy from MoD and HM Government. Idiots!!

Deep32
Deep32
3 days ago

That’s my understanding of the issue too. I believe it’s the main reason we won’t be modifying any A400’s either. Don’t the MOD have to pay a hefty premium to go down this route, or indeed is it the real reason why we are not fitting any booms to Voyagers?

Mark B
Mark B
3 days ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Would I be wrong in assuming from these convoluted conversations that this is not a problem and is never likely to be a problem or am I missing something?

Ambivalent Lurker
Ambivalent Lurker
3 days ago
Reply to  Mark B

Its one those moments where the old adage “perfect is the enemy of good” seems to be appropriate…

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

There is the issue of what does the A400s offer on Re-fueling over a Voyager.
Merlin only helo plumbed for AAR.

So A400s will lose out to Drones.

Paul42
Paul42
3 days ago
Reply to  Marked

The UK MOD is its own worst enemy. Complete lack of foresight and planning, limiting capability….in order to save a few pounds.
We are operating a number of key air assets that require refuelling via boom, simple answer fit booms!! As for training, plenty of opportunity with our US allies based out of Mildenhall, or wherever……

Andy a
Andy a
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul42

But why spend all that cash, all fast jets don’t need it, voyager has huge range, p8 and c17 as well. More gold plated expense for no reason. Rather spend cash else where

Chris
Chris
22 hours ago
Reply to  Andy a

The P8 and E7 do not have long endurance. 7-8 hours at most. The p-8 is especially critical as it has to descend to engage some targets, where fuel burn is much higher.

It is not be possible to operate the P-8 more than 1500 miles off shore without air to air refueling.

You can make every excuse in the world, but nearly every single other country sees the value and necessity in boom-receptecle refueling.

Andy a
Andy a
18 hours ago
Reply to  Chris

Really? Which countries fly boom aircraft?

Chris
Chris
4 minutes ago
Reply to  Andy a

Operating dedicated boom tanker Aircraft:
Australia
France
Spain
Netherlands
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
South Korea
UAE
Turkey
USA
Japan
Italy

Dedicated boom aircraft on order:
Brasil
Belgium
Norway
Germany

Countries W/Non-Boom capable dedicated tankers, and no plans to acquire them:
Canada
UK
Colombia

Last edited 3 minutes ago by Chris
Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy
3 days ago

I presume with the two refuelling hoses trailing from the wings big aircraft would be too close. Why don’t they trail one hose from the tail back end?

Mark T
Mark T
3 days ago
Reply to  Puffing Billy

They do, or at least some of the fleet does. I think 7 or 9 aircraft have 4 point refuelling ( 2 under the belly and 1 on each wing ). The others have wing only capability and are the jets that can be leased to civilian airlines. I’m pretty sure the RAF C17’s have an extra over wing centre fuel tank so have longer range than most. As someone said crew time will probably be a bigger factor in most circumstances rather than range. Not that i’m a fan Of the Air Tanker contract as it seems to limit/… Read more »

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 days ago

No surprise 🙄

John G
John G
3 days ago

This does appear crackers to me. The MOD can find funds for VIP conversion or paint jobs but not support all the US purchased large resources. I think there are currently two voyagers fitted for but not with centre tanks that are an obvious option but ideally one or two of the surge fleet. What price long endurance E7 or P8 in a crisis?

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 days ago

The old solution to this problem was that a probe was fitted to the aircraft so no boom was required. It was done with the nimrod, E3, Vulcan, victor etc. I can’t actually remember if the vc10 and Tristar had it. Surely that is the most simple and easiest solution.
No need to modify tankers, train boom operators etc.
The VC had a larger transfer centre hose unit that pumped more gas than the wing pods. I thought some of the air tankers had this also?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

The simplest and easiest solution isn’t always the best or safest.
XV 230, the Nimrod that went down in Afghan and sparked off Haddon Cave, had mods done for Air to Air refuelling that where the main reason it crashed.

The days of simply connecting up a few pipes and bolting on a refuel probe are well gone . For all 3 services the platform managers have to manage the risk of any mods or alterations in excruciating , granular detail.

The “What if” meetings I have attended in previous years where days I will never , ever get back.

Reaper
Reaper
3 days ago

Atleast we have yanks with booms in uk., but we need this capability for our P8,e7, globes, a400 ect

Ambivalent Lurker
Ambivalent Lurker
3 days ago
Reply to  Reaper

FYI A400 has a refueling probe

A400M_EC-402_35483.jpg
Reaper
Reaper
2 days ago

Thanks.

Positroll
Positroll
3 days ago
Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 days ago

Consider ourselves lucky that we did not get involved with the latest Boeing boom system that gets rid of the boom operator aft and replaces them with 3d glasses and TV screens with the boom operator sat in the cabin.

The system doesn’t work well and is only cleared for a select few aircraft. Glare and glint issues, lack of depth of field, boom strikes on aircraft… Its a massive issue, is costing millions to fix and the project is years late.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Don’t forget the shoddy build standard of the KC46s.

Daniel
Daniel
2 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Isn’t that also how the boom system fitted to MRTT’s works?

Positroll
Positroll
1 day ago
Reply to  Daniel

Yeah. But the Airbus one does work fine. And has been automated now.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYE0TTgazeM

the_marquis
the_marquis
2 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Aren’t the US looking to buy MRTTs now as well, under the KC-Y programme to replace KC-10s? The “Y” in the project title presumably standing for “why didn’t we buy Airbus in the first place”…

Knight7572
Knight7572
15 hours ago
Reply to  the_marquis

Yeah given its the USA the KC-777 will likely get chosen and win

Sooty
Sooty
2 days ago

So Global Britain will still be dependent on its allies to provide useful force multipliers for its maritime surveillance, AEW, electronic surveillance and strategic freighter aircraft. Not only that, one of those allies has recently proved to be less reliable than hoped. Someone in government needs to wake up.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 days ago
Reply to  Sooty

One of those allies on the Political level is less than reliable.

Inter military work isnt an issue.

Sooty
Sooty
2 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

100% with you on that.

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
1 day ago
Reply to  Sooty

The RAF who set Requirements’. have been clear for many years that they do not have an endorsed requirement for a boom. Perhaps it would be ‘nice to have’, but ‘nice to have’ counts for nothing when you cannot afford a operationally viable AWACS fleet or sufficient MPA aircraft and have to ‘slow role’ the purchase of F35s.

Andy a
Andy a
1 day ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

Exactly, we all complain about them wasting cash, not needed luxury, rather have refuelling on fast jets

Chris
Chris
22 hours ago
Reply to  Andy a

This isn’t an either/or situation.

Airbus has developed the boom on their own dollar for every other MRTT operator. It works. It’s available now.

Buying it is a proven off the shelf solution.

The RAF won’t buy it because the terms of the Air Tanker contract are absurd.

Andy a
Andy a
16 hours ago
Reply to  Chris

It’s “a nice to have” how many fast jets you want to bin to pay for it?
Can’t afford to have everything