Voyager achieves its first flight in RAF service

The first Voyager aircraft took to the skies on 8 April 2012 for her maiden flight under the command of an AirTanker crew, to signal the commencement of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) service to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The FSTA programme is being delivered by the AirTanker consortium, of which Thales UK is a member.

The aircraft, a version of the Airbus Military A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft, took off from RAF Brize Norton for a training sortie around the UK to allow the AirTanker crew to familiarise themselves with the aircraft and achieve the first part of the Voyager crew training schedule.

The Voyager aircraft was delivered by Airbus Military to AirTanker at the end of last year and demonstrates a development in technology that will provide the RAF with an advanced air-to-air refuelling, passenger transport and aero medical capability. As a modern and efficient airframe, Voyager is quieter and more fuel efficient than any other aircraft currently based at RAF Brize Norton.

AirTanker Services (ATrS), the service delivery company, is ready to support and operate the Voyager aircraft to Civil Aviation Authority standards. Based at RAF Brize Norton, ATrS has built a strong team including both civilian and military expertise.

AirTanker plans to deliver the full capability of 14 aircraft by 2016. The nine aircraft that form the RAF core fleet will be delivered by May 2014. The service will operate aircraft on both the military and civilian registers.

Phill Blundell, Chief Executive of AirTanker, says: “The aircraft is a magnificent airframe that combines efficiency, effective tasking capability and reliability. The programme brings together the best of the civilian aviation industry with military operational expertise and will offer an innovative and multi-functional capability to meet the demands of the 21st Century.”

Dave Mitchard, Managing Director of AirTanker Services, says: “We have all been looking forward to introducing Voyager into service as a valuable asset for the Ministry of Defence. I am proud of the team’s achievements in reaching operational service and the hard work will now continue to ensure we offer the best possible service for the RAF.”

The next 12 months will see the Voyager team conduct planned procedural activities ensuring the aircraft continues through its intensive programme to be ready for future operational environments. During this time, the aircraft will be based at RAF Brize Norton to allow air and ground crews to complete Air Transport and air-to-air refuelling familiarisation training and development on the aircraft type.

Thales UK provides the mission simulators, defensive aids, avionics and mission planning systems for the FSTA programme.

Source: Thales Group (Paris: HO.PA)
Date: Apr 10, 2012