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These are worrying times for the UK Royal Air Force, with the service facing major upheavals to its air transport and air-to-air refuelling inventories over the next 18 months.
By the end of this year, the last of the UK's Lockheed Martin C-130K Hercules will be retired from use, while the replacement Airbus Military A400M won't start appearing on the ramp at RAF Brize Norton until during 2014. More hours on the hard-worked C-130J fleet will cover part of the shortfall, along with the introduction by March 2013 of two ex-TNT Airways BAe 146 passenger/freighters now being modified for military operations in Afghanistan. The service also recently took delivery of an eighth Boeing C-17.
But it is in the tanker sector that the biggest headache is emerging. The RAF's last nine Vickers VC10s (Crown Copyright image below) are to be retired in March 2013, with its Lockheed TriStars (including four tankers) to follow by the end of the same year.
A £10billion fleet of refuelling planes for the RAF have been found to suffer leaks when they fill up British jets.
Tests have shown connecting pipes leak on the Voyagers when they try to resupply Tornado jets - although they work fine when used by American fighters.
It is feared the latest glitch to affect the aircraft, also used to evacuate battlefield casualties and transport troops, could delay their entry into service.
Peter Luff: The first Airbus 330-200 Voyager aircraft was dispatched to the AirTanker Ltd facility at RAF Brize Norton on 22 December 2011. This will allow the company to undertake the work required to register the aircraft; obtain the Civilian Aviation Authority Certificate of Airworthiness; prepare for handover and undertake familiarisation training for its staff.
The in-service date for the programme is May 2014 when nine aircraft are available for Air-Air-Refuelling.
The Voyager payment mechanism ensures the Ministry of Defence only pays for the service delivered. Payments are made against availability (number of aircraft booked per day) and usage.
Ground and Air-Air-Refuelling trials between the Voyager aircraft and Tornado GR.4 are continuing and progress has been made. During a trials programme, issues emerged on the stability of the hose and fuel leakage. Such incidents are not unusual in trials. Engineering solutions for these issues have been identified and are being developed.
Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by RichardPrice
As I said, it's rumored to still be going on. Regardless, even if that problem is resolved, the conversion schedule is going to be cutting it close with the retirement of the other tankers, and them moving all the work to Madrid.