A TriStar KC1 tanker (RAF code ZD952) flies over Kemble Air Day, Kemble Airport, Gloucestershire, England (Image © Adrian Pingstone)

Paramilitarization gives RAF Tristars new chance

The paramilitarization of the US Armed Forces and many of its allies may give six Lockheed L-1011 TriStars retired by the Royal Air Force a new chance. Taken out of service in March 2014, the well-maintained tanker and transport aircraft could serve again, as part of a growing international civilian semi-military fleet. How fruitful this apparent undertaking really is, remains to be seen.

AGD Systems Corporation is a small US company with less than 10 employees but likely a number of freelancers contracted as well, according to Airheadsfly.com’s information. It is seeking to put six ex-RAF Tristars into use. Led by 48-year old CEO Mark T. Daniels AGD Systems Corporation is a bit known through its predecessor: the AeroGroup.

AeroGroup was founded in 1999 and provided the first ever civilian conversion training to NATO countries. In 2003 the Royal Netherlands Air Force had AeroGroup personnel provide training for the F-16 fighter jocks inside the United States, followed in 2008 by the Belgian Air Component with civilian conversion training from the Alpha Jet to the F-16. The latter was done at Kleine Brogel Airbase. The Italian Air Force is also an F-16 training customer of the AeroGroup. In May 2015 the AeroGroup became AGD Systems Corporation.

According to an AGD Systems press release four of the six Tristars are aerial refuelling tankers with the NATO standard drogue system, the remaining two are configured for cargo / passenger / medevac missions. “The aircraft will operate under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration certification and have already been assigned FAA “N” registration numbers,” a statement reads. The aircraft indeed show up on the FAA database, registered to a company called ‘Aero Airtanker’ and with certificates issued in February this year.

Mark T. Daniels: “The aircraft are currently undergoing inspections to return them to civilian operation for military contract services, with the first one ready in June 2015. The aircraft will be offered to US, UK and NATO forces to support their operations globally. This capability will put AGD Systems in a very unique business and much needed service, as more and more military services are being outsourced to commercial companies.”

How fruitful this undertaking will be remains to be seen. With virtually no other remaining active L-1011s remaining anywhere in the world, these aircraft should be costly to fly and maintain. The aircraft could play a role in filling NATO’s tanker gap however. Earlier, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that it would scrap the aircraft if no buyer was found.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A TriStar KC1 tanker (RAF code ZD952) flies over Kemble Air Day, Kemble Airport, Gloucestershire, England (Image (CC) Adrian Pingstone)