Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force pays tribute to the "queen of the skies" VC-10 with a three-ship flypast across the UK

In 1960, the RAF issued Specification 239 for a strategic transport, which during September 1961 resulted in an order for five VC-10’s from Vickers- Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd.

The VC-10 was an airliner designed for high subsonic speed at high altitude whilst operating from hot and high airfields found in African countries of the old British Empire. The design that came out of these requirements was quite simply the stuff of legends: the performance was so good once in production it broke the fastest crossing of the Atlantic (London to New York) for a sub-sonic airliner, a record it still holds. The only passenger carrying aircraft to have beaten the record is Concorde which is a different beast altogether.

It was this performance that caught the eye of the RAF.

Following the initial order of five examples a further order for another six followed in August 1962, along with another three during 1964 from a cancelled order from BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) the fore runner to British Airways.

In 1977 VC-10s were starting to become redundant from commercial operators therefore the RAF placed a contract with British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) to convert five former BOAC VC-10s and four former East African Airways Super VC-10s (additional fuel tanks in tail fin).

Again in 1981 a further 14 British Airways Super VC-10s were purchased and put into storage some of which was used for spares and five were eventually returned to service during the early ’90s.

The main difference between the early military and commercial versions of the VC-10 was more powerful engines (in the military version), an in flight refuelling probe and an auxiliary power unit in the tail cone. Also the seats in the passenger cabin for the military version faced backwards unlike the commercial seat that faced forwards as per all commercial airliners of the time.

The converted ex airliners were modified with additional fuel tanks within what would have been the passenger cabin. This allowed the VC-10 to carry up to 90 tons of fuel.

The VC-10 found itself flying in all conflicts that the British forces took part in from the ’60s.

It formed part of the air bridge between the UK and Wideawake airfield (Ascension Island) during the Falklands conflict, they even donated a Dual Carousel navigation system to the Vulcan that were used in the Black Buck raids on Port Stanley airfield. Then in 1991 the VC-10 fleet found themselves in the Middle East and deployed to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman as part of Operation Granby the British effort in the first Gulf War. There after VC-10 operating out of Oman refueled coalition aircraft over Iraq and Afghanistan, with nine examples taking place in operation Telic, the second Gulf War.

The VC-10 was found to have a rugged air frame and was loved by its crews mainly due to its performance, which was a double edged sword as many crews would fly over the Atlantic twice in a day, usually to Goose Bay in Canada, from the UK.

In recent years the fleet has been reduced in size and late August 2012 saw the type reduced further to four flying examples which would no longer partake in transport duties.

To celebrate fifty years of the VC-10, the 95th anniversary of 101 Squadron and 30 years since the first K2 entered service in the air-air refuelling role, the RAF flew three examples from their base at RAF Brize Norton in a mission that took them North to Scotland and a fly past at RAF Lossiemouth then on to RAF Leuchars. A flight South saw them fly over Newcastle Upon Tyne, RAF Scampton, RAF Waddington, RAF Cranwell, RAF Coningsby, RAF Marham and finally retuning to RAF Brize Norton where the trio of jets did a run and break before touching down for the final time.

The remaining four jets will soldier on until the out of service date during March 2013 and the type will fall silent.

Many examples are already finding their way into the museum collections around the country.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Richard Clements

RAF Typhoon scrambles for second intercept in London Olympics No-Fly Zone

On Aug. 3, at 16.49 local time, a Royal Air Force Typhoon was scrambled for the second time since a No-Fly Zone was established, from RAF Northolt, North West London.

Eye witnesses stated that the fighter jet took off and performed a near vertical climb out from the base. Whilst the Typhoon thundered into the late afternoon skies a second taxied to the end of the runway as a spare.

The target aircraft was a Boeing 737 business jet, serial number N444HE, registered to Wells Fargo Bank, which was cruising at 36,000 feet, when the Typhoon arrived on its left hand side for visual identification and escort.

From the end of the runway to the wing of the target the Typhoon took only 3.5 minutes!

The fighter jet on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was scrambled after the B737 failed to respond to the Air Traffic Control calls on the radio.

After a few minutes the Typhoon broke away from the target and requested a bit of general handling to burn fuel before returning to RAF Northolt.

Serial Number of the RAF Typhoon involed is thought to be ZJ923.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Giovanni Maduli

British pilots flew armed U.S drones during the Libyan conflict

Several online news outlets, including the British Newspaper The Guardian, have been running news articles stating that British exchange pilots in the U.S flew armed American Predator drones during the Libyan conflict. The disclosure had slipped out during a parliamentary answer, some 10 months after the end of the conflict, during which the British Government had insisted that no British armed drones had been used. Whilst technically still true the MOD (Ministry of Defence) has since admitted that RAF personnel on an exchange program had indeed flown the armed predators during the conflict whom became a key part of the air war.

During the conflict, between April and October (2011), the Predators performed some 145 air strikes according the figures released by the Pentagon; it remains unclear how many of those air strikes were flown by British personnel. The Guardian quoted a RAF source as saying that the British pilots would have followed British ROEs (Rules Of Engagement) rather than U.S. ones. “If they were asked to go beyond their own nation’s rules, then they would refuse to do so.”

The Defence Minister Lord Astor had “let the cat out of the bag” on Tuesday Jul. 26 during questions and said “Her Majesty’s government do not use armed remotely piloted air systems against terrorist suspects outside Afghanistan. However, UK personnel flew armed remotely piloted air systems against Gaddafi’s forces in Libya in 2011, in support of the NATO humanitarian mission authorised under UNSCR resolution 1973.”

The MoD was quick to make a statement on the subject: “There were no and are no UK remotely piloted air systems operating outside of Afghanistan. The UK armed forces routinely embed UK personnel with allied nation units (and vice versa) via exchange programmes. As confirmed by Lord Astor, UK personnel embedded within a US unit flew armed remotely piloted air systems missions against Gaddafi’s forces in Libya in 2011,” the spokesman said to The Guardian.

In 2007, to operate its MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) drone alongside the USAF in support of UK ground forces in Afghanistan, the Royal Air Force formed 39 Sqn at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

British Reapers provide real-time video imagery to ground commanders, with the capability to attack ground targets if required.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Crown Copyright

Olympics air security gets its first test as Typhoon is scrambled from RAF Northolt, in noth-west London

At around 12.20pm local time on Wednesday Jul. 25 the RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoons based at RAF Northolt (London) for Olympic Games security got their first scramble.

Using radio callsign 6NK31, the first Typhoon roared into the skies above northwest London whereas a second jet was kept on holding on the runway threshold ready to launch as 6NK32.

Once airborne, 6NK31 went south towards Heathrow and circled overhead at 4,000 feet before the intercept was called off. As 6NK32 returned to its shelter 6NK31 moved to RAF Marham where it entered into a holding pattern to burn fuel before landing back at Northolt.

Aircraft on QRA in north-west London are among the somehow controversial security measures put in place to protect the Olympics, that are kicking off on Jul. 27.

As of writing it is not known what caused the scramble order.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Giovanni Maduli

As seen in this photo, the first British F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is a real cool looking badass combat plane

On Jul. 19, the United Kingdom accepted the first international Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft in a ceremony attended by senior representatives of the U.K. Ministry of Defence and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The U.K. was the first of eight international partners to join the F-35 program and plans to acquire the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin