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RAF facing tanker shortage

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posted on Jun, 25 2012 @ 11:57 PM
The RAF is planning to retire the last nine VC-10 tankers by March of 2013, with the Lockheed Tristar (including four tankers) by the end of the 2013. They are scheduled to be replaced by a fleet of 14 A330 Voyager tankers, under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) plan.

However, there are several problems that have cropped up with the A330 tanker. There are rumors that the fuel leak problem is still occurring when RAF Typhoons are refueled. Interestingly, the leaks don't occur when American aircraft are refueled.

The current plan calls for a "core" group of nine aircraft, and a total of 14 in the fleet. There is currently one aircraft in service, and it is only certified for transport activities. Conversion of the remaining aircraft have been removed from Cobham Aviation Services, and will be completed by Airbus Military in Madrid to ensure on time delivery.

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.

The Dew Line

Fuel leak problem:

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.

A330 fuel leaks

posted on Jun, 26 2012 @ 10:13 AM
Re Tornado refueling issues - its a receiver aircraft issue, boom operators on US tankers have, on other forums, said its a tricky aircraft to refuel even for them due to pressure issues on the receiver.

The issue was identified in December of last year, and resolved in January of this year. And yet that hasn't killed rumours.

From a UK Parliament Q&A, 10 January 2012.

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.

posted on Jun, 26 2012 @ 12:57 PM
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.

posted on Jun, 26 2012 @ 02:48 PM

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.

The leaks have never occurred with the Typhoons, and the issue was resolved with the Tornados at the start of the year, so that rumour is false.

Bear in mind that 2014 is the in service date, but only because its when there is enough Voyagers active to constitute enough aircraft to form a flight around - there will be 7 to 8 aircraft available in 2013, with 9 in 2014 constituting the minimum to formally become an inservice aircraft. They will be taking over refueling duties in 2013 on a gradual basis however.

posted on Jul, 21 2012 @ 12:08 AM
Seriously all they have to do it strike a deal with US Kc-135s stationed in Mildenhall to use until they get the fleet up and running. We do have an active duty squadron at Mildenhall still right?

Boom Operator from 2000-2006

posted on Jul, 21 2012 @ 05:14 AM
reply to post by Zaphod58

Madrid is where the KC-330 is developed and built so I shouldn't think the work going there would cause any delay. Just the opposite as there is now no need to transport the green airframes to Cobhams for completion.

posted on Jul, 21 2012 @ 09:57 AM
reply to post by waynos

I think that's the reason that they chose to do all the work there instead of there and in the UK. It minimizes any delays in the program.

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