(Image © AirTanker)

AirTanker: Voyagers for joint European use

AirTanker, the company behind the Royal Air Force (RAF) Airbus A330 Voyager program, is currently in talks with the RAF on supporting the transport and air-to-air refueling (AAR) needs of other allied nations. This should accelerate the introduction into service of more European Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

AirTanker provides the RAF with Voyager MRTT aircraft, including maintenance and pilot, crew and engineer training. The company now seeks to offer this service to other nations as well. Future cooperation could include shared training and expertise or the pooling and sharing of assets across NATO and Europe.

Talks were also held with the European Defence Agency (EDA), AirTanker confirms. Under an EDA-initiative, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland have set out to buy a shared fleet of four MRTT aircraft. France has also ordered the type, while countries such as the Czech Republic are desperate for added transport and AAR capabilities. The EDA pointed to a European ‘tanker gap’ years ago, and AirTanker’s recent talks are aimed at filling this gap.

“The RAF remains our core customer but we are now working with it and the MOD to explore opportunities to extract additional value from the Voyager program”, AirTanker CEO Phil Blundell said.

AirTanker’s fleet consists of twelve transport and AAR capable Voyager aircraft, the last of which was delivered to the AirTanker hub at Brize Norton airbase in the UK in June. Two more Voyager are scheduled for delivery in January and September 2016.

Nine aircraft form the core of the RAF tanker capability. The type is now almost a year into its first operational deployment, supporting fighter aircraft during their missions over Iraq and Syria. US AV-8B Harrier and French Dassault Rafales also received fuel from Voyagers.

Agreements allow for civil use of the Voyager aircraft already. One Voyager was converted to a regular Airbus A330 and delivered to Thomas Cook airlines in May 2014.

More on AirTanker’s operations should follow at Airheadsfly.com later this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The Voyager in action (Image © AirTanker)