The RAF have announced that one of its Voyager Air-to-Air Refuelling tankers has completed the first UK refuel of the F-35B.

According to a news release, the refuel took place on the 16th October 2018, over the North Sea at 19000ft.

“The Voyager, based at RAF Brize Norton, home to the RAF’s Air Mobility Fleet is no stranger to refuelling fast jets, being the RAF’s sole AAR capability. The Voyager KC. Mk 2, is equipped with two underwing pods for refuelling fast jets, and the Voyager KC. Mk 3 has an additional centreline hose for use by larger aircraft.”

The Voyager Captain said:

“The Voyager aircraft offers a highly capable Air-to-Air Refuelling capability, with which we provide regular support to many of the RAF’s fixed wing aircraft.  Supporting the new F-35B, as it enters service, is a hugely important task for the Voyager Force. 

Today’s sortie went extremely well and builds on the Air-to-Air Refuelling deployment sorties flown from the US to the UK earlier this year.  We look forward to enhancing our support for the F35B during this important period for the F-35B development programme.”

A Royal Navy F-35B pilot in 617 Squadron also said in the release:

“It’s fantastic to be able to link up the UK’s 5th generation asset with the RAF’s Voyager tanker in UK skies for the first time.  Being able to refuel from an asset such as Voyager gives the F-35B the ability to deliver world beating air power at range in defence of the nation.”

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Cammy hunter
Cammy hunter (@guest_435920)
2 years ago

Shame we don’t have that many voyager aircraft, but they are great planes that fill multiple roles…

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_435930)
2 years ago
Reply to  Cammy hunter

“Under a March 2008 agreement, the AirTanker consortium was selected to provide 14 aircraft under a 27-year contract. This includes a so-called ‘Core Fleet’ of eight military serialled and one civilian-registered aircraft, supplemented by a ‘Surge Fleet’ of five civilian-registered aircraft that AirTanker uses commercially to generate additional revenue. The surge aircraft are demodified very close to A330-200 standard and can be recalled for military use if required.”

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_435932)
2 years ago

First four F35’s arrived on the 06.06.2018, so it appears that things are finally moving along at quite a pace!

Riga (@guest_435949)
2 years ago

Thoughts. Can the “awacs” equipment be containerised? Obviously, ‘Top Hat’ is an issue but if the planes double between refuelers and people movers, could they take on an awacs role?

Daveyb (@guest_435957)
2 years ago
Reply to  Riga

It’s a very bad idea to combine a tanker and an aerial refuelling aircraft. This is because of very high power RF being generated and transmitted, as the voltage jumps above 40Kv strange things happen to the way electricity travels i.e. the skin effect. This has the ability to cause sparking where it jumps very small gaps with a risk of causing a vapour explosion.
Technically it can be done, but it’s very risky as there so many safety controls that need to be adhered to.

Joe16 (@guest_436048)
2 years ago
Reply to  Riga

I saw a discussion about this on another comment thread (if not on here then on the Warzone I think, good site to check out), because the Indians are looking at doing that with their aircraft. Aside from the scientific issues, AWACS and tankers fly very different orbits of the battle space to their jobs most effectively. This would either mean you’re compromising on how available your fuel is to combat jets (not ideal) or on how good a picture of the battle space you have and how effectively you can control your assets (probably less ideal). You’re probably better… Read more »

Riga (@guest_435963)
2 years ago

Thanks DaveyB. Given it must be some kind of skin they insert inside the aircraft, can remove, and then take passengers I just wondered.

Pacman27 (@guest_435970)
2 years ago

I actually think we can use more voyagers for VIP’s with secondary refuelling tasking. this has worked very well.

They do seem to be very good value for money and the deal seems to be working well.

Chris (@guest_435972)
2 years ago

(Chris H) – Just me being overly ‘British’ but I think the one kitted out for the Queen and PM should be repainted into the original VC10 colours of white over grey separated by the blue lightning flash. And with a Union Jack on the tail rather than RAF triple colour block.

Like this:

geoff (@guest_436015)
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Nothing wrong with being overly British Chris! And funny you should mention the colour scheme- whilst we understand the need for low visibility insignia I was just thinking how magnificent the F35 in the above photo would look with fin flash and roundels in Red, White and Blue!

Chris (@guest_436031)
2 years ago
Reply to  geoff

(Chris H) geoff – right with you on that! We are good at doing ‘one off’ paint jobs: The Typhoon in D Day black and white stripes, another in WWII camouflage pattern.

I always liked the FAA colours on Sea Harriers before the Falklands:

comment image

(Bloody long address for one photo – Sorry!)

Lusty (@guest_436010)
2 years ago

And the test Aircraft on Queen Elizabeth have already fired off inert weapons as part of their trials. Things really are progressing well.

As for repainting the voyager, I’m on the fence. I’d certainly agree with bringing some of the extra five currently used by civilian airlines back into military service, perhaps grant them to 32 Squadron. Perhaps they can be painted in a more visible colour scheme?

(Of course, I’d love to see the return of a Royal Yacht too)

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_436039)
2 years ago
Reply to  Lusty

“Of course, I’d love to see the return of a Royal Yacht too”

Bravo Lusty. Quite right too.

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub (@guest_436044)
2 years ago

Is it about time that some of the Voyagers were fitted with flying booms to refuel the larger aircraft in the fleet?
Also, weren’t the F35bs refuelled by Voyagers on the trip across the pond? I think the press release is referring to the first refuelling in British skies.

Phillip (@guest_436052)
2 years ago

I’ve been mentioning the idea of the KC2s being fitted with booms for a while – you’ve got Rivet Joint, Globemaster, Poseidon and now potentially Wedgetail that are solely fitted for boom refuelling; fitting booms would allow better integration with other air forces; and if Australia can do it why can’t we?

Chris (@guest_436088)
2 years ago
Reply to  Phillip

(Chris H) – we have had this discussion many times recently. My view is that given we have 8 C-17s and 3 RC-135s the cost of converting all of our Voyagers to ARBS (Boom) just isn’t worth while and both are long range aircraft anyway. Now we get into the sticky patch of whether the Poseidons should be fitted on the production line with Probes & Drogue system to suit and match the UK standard refuelling system. I cannot see any reason why Boeing cannot provide this, given Cobham are more than capable of doing this on the Boeing production… Read more »

Chris (@guest_436089)
2 years ago
Reply to  Phillip

(Chris H) Philip – Can I gently correct you on the Voyager? The ‘KC Mk 2’ (KC2) only has wing pod refuelling points whereas the ‘KC Mk 3’ (KC3) has both wing and fuselage centre line refuelling points. The fuselage line being high volume. If we were to retro fit ARBS then it is the KC3s that would be so fitted as they are passively engineered for the ARBS Boom and have all the internal systems already fitted.