The Royal Air Force has expressed interest in fitting its Voyager tanker aircraft with a boom, “if the funding can be sourced”, a senior official has said.

The information first came to light in a Janes article by Gareth Jennings that can be found here.

After reaching out to former deputy Commander of Operations Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, we were 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.”

The fitting of a boom would enable the aircraft to refuel aircraft such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint, C-17 Globemaster and the soon to be delivered P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Gareth Jennings at Janes previously covered this topic here.

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.

In January 2004 the UK Ministry of Defence announced that a variant of the A330 MRTT had been selected to provide tanking service for the RAF for the next 30 years under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme, replacing the RAF’s existing L-1011 and VC10 tankers. There has been some criticism over the deal as none of the aircraft would be fitted with a boom despite it being offered.

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

In 2005, the RAAF expected that deliveries would begin in late 2008 and be completed in 2010. Deliveries fell two years behind schedule, in part because of delays in the boom’s development.

An Australian tanker, the same type of aircraft as Voyager, using its boom to refuel an aircraft.
An Australian tanker, the same type of aircraft as Voyager, using its boom to refuel an aircraft.

The Voyager tanker fleet recently reached a milestone with the achievement of ‘Full Service Date’ on time and on budget.

Phill Blundell, CEO AirTanker Ltd, said:

“Today is a landmark date for everyone involved in the Voyager programme. Following the contract award to AirTanker by the Ministry of Defence in 2008, the whole AirTanker team has worked tirelessly together with our industry partners and RAF colleagues to deliver this vital capability.

The fact that we have done so on time and on budget is testament to that teamwork and commitment.”

Keith Filbey, Managing Director, AirTanker Services, said:

“There is a great sense of pride within the workforce that we have achieved this important contractual milestone and that Voyager continues to deliver exceptionally well, whether in support of global operations or defending UK skies.

The first aircraft completed its maiden flight in April 2012 operating for the RAF and since then Voyager has proven its worth time and again. In July this year, the programme reached the milestone of the 10,000th flight across the Voyager Force and our leasing community. We look forward to continuing our support for this vital defence asset.”

The final aircraft arrived at RAF Brize Norton in July, completing the aircraft delivery requirements of the contract.

The fleet of nine core and five surge aircraft, operate in both the military and civil leasing sectors with the surge aircraft being available to the RAF should they be required.


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Len Pearce
Len Pearce
5 years ago

This is so typical of government short sitedness it would have been cheaper to have it fitted at production of the aircraft. But no let’s save a fiver now and then spend loadsa money later on a retrofit. BLOODY useless the lot of them.
4 years ago

Is it worth the financial outlay when Air Tanking is only 10% if what this aircraft spends it’s time doing. It’s primary role is passenger and freight movement. The name Air Tanker is a bit of a misnomer, but it sounds punchier than just Voyager!