The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has clarified the purpose of RAF-operated Airbus tanker flights from RAF Akrotiri in response to an unusual Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The FOI request, submitted by Mr William Henderson via the WhatDoTheyKnow platform, queried the nature of these flights and their potential involvement in Israeli operations over Gaza.

It should be noted that this request was not submitted by the UK Defence Journal or anyone connected to it.

Mr Henderson’s query stated:

“RAF operated Airbus tankers have been repeatedly observed flying from RAF Akrotiri. No other aircraft are shown on the ADS-B or MLAT system tracks. It is notable that Israeli AF combat aircraft do not show on such systems.

Are RAF aircraft being used to aid Israeli operations over Gaza? Otherwise, what is the purpose of such otherwise seemingly random and pointless flights? Should not ALL RAF flights openly display transponder data to remove any suspicions of collusion?”

In its response, the MOD provided detailed information about the purpose of these flights:

“While you have not provided any dates or timeframes, under Section 16 advice and assistance, I can confirm that RAF Airbus Voyager aircraft provide regular Air Mobility flights between the UK, the Sovereign Base Area, and RAF Akrotiri, and the broader region. They also provide Air-to-Air refuelling support to Typhoon aircraft conducting operations from Akrotiri, primarily on Op Shader, our counter-Daesh operation.”

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The MOD also addressed the operational procedures concerning the aircraft transponders:

“Further, under section 16 it may be useful to note that when undertaking Air-to-air refuelling support, the fighter aircraft flying in the formation with the Voyager are mandated to switch their on-board ADS-B transponders to standby mode so they no longer broadcast. This is to ensure that the transponders do not trigger collision warning systems of the other aircraft in the formation.”

Finally, the MOD explicitly stated the scope of the RAF’s operations:

“Finally, you request whether RAF Voyager have been used to aid Israeli Operations. I can confirm this is not the case; as given above the Voyager are conducting UK missions in other areas of the wider region.”

The MOD’s response confirmed that the RAF Airbus Voyager aircraft are conducting well-documented UK military operations, particularly for Operation Shader. This clarification aims to dispel any misconceptions about the nature of these flights, which have been regularly reported by the UK Defence Journal and other sources.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Wyn Beynon
Wyn Beynon (@guest_831445)
5 days ago

If you watch the Voyagers out of Akrotiri on ADS-B, as I do, it’s fairly clear they are only over Israel on Operation Shader flights (sometimes they head round Syria via Turkey) The transponder is turned off when they get over Iraq.( Often the Typhoons show up on transponder too). Israel doesn’t really need ARR when everything is 5 minutes flight time away! I wonder if the question is politically motivated or is it the result just a lack of understanding of what the radar tracks actually show?

GlynH (@guest_831476)
5 days ago

Surely, the theatre of operations is so small that unless there is a lot of loitering then there is no need for the IAF’s F-16s with conformal tanks etc to need refuelling in the air.

Cognitio68 (@guest_833023)
2 minutes ago

Great. Can we now refer the dumb clown who asked this question to his Doctor for a psychological check up. A personality with such a toxic mixture of ignorance and paranoia is going to perpetually struggle in life.