Tag Archives: Voyager

The Royal Air Force completes F-35B Tanker Trials a Week Early

….and here are some stunning air-to-air shots!

During a seven week detachment to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, a Royal Air Force (RAF) A330 Voyager tanker conducted 18 air-to-air refueling (AAR) test trials with an F-35B Lightning II Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF).

According to the ITF, the testing campaign carried out by joint RAF – Pax River ITF test team was completed one week early, demonstrating the team’s efficiency by accomplishing its test plan in 18 flights rather than the scheduled 20 flights.

The trials included day, twilight, and evening plugs between the F-35’s IFR (In-Flight Refueling) probe and the tanker’s hose (indeed RAF’s A330 Voyager tankers are only equipped with the U.S. Navy’s standard “hose and drogue” system).

The test trials generated data for the assessment of the wing pods and the fuselage refueling unit in anticipation of a flight clearance that will support the U.K.’s F-35B Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2018.

BF-04 Flt 363. RAF Voyager (KC-30) air refueling testing on 26 April 2016 piloted by RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell.

BF-04 Flt 363. RAF Voyager (KC-30) air refueling testing on 26 April 2016 piloted by RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell.

The U.K. has 19 RAF and Royal Navy personnel embedded within the F-35 Pax River ITF. Many of these British military participate in the shipboard developmental test (DT) phases for both the F-35B and F-35C.

BF-04 Flt 364 piloted by Mr. Billie Flynn tanks off an RAF KC-30 (Voyager) tanker on 2 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

BF-04 Flt 364 piloted by Mr. Billie Flynn tanks off an RAF KC-30 (Voyager) tanker on 2 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

U.K. personnel supported the first two phases of F-35B testing aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the first two phases of F-35C testing aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), respectively. They are set to embark on the third and final phases of testing at sea for the two F-35 variants, ahead of the U.K.’s own F-35B Ship Integration trials scheduled to take place aboard UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in 2018.

BF-04 Flt 366. KC-30 Voyager AR Tanker Testing on 09 May 2016 with LCDR Ted Dyckman as the pilot.

BF-04 Flt 366. KC-30 Voyager AR Tanker Testing on 09 May 2016 with LCDR Ted Dyckman as the pilot.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will use a ski-jump ramp to help the launching plane take off with an upward flight path and a BAE Systems Test Pilot launched the F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time at Pax River in June last year.

BF-04 Flt 371 piloted by Lt Col Tom "Sally" Fields performs aerial refueling tests with a KC-30 Voyager tanker on 16 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

BF-04 Flt 371 piloted by Lt Col Tom “Sally” Fields performs aerial refueling tests with a KC-30 Voyager tanker on 16 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

Special thanks to Sylvia Pierson, F-35 Lightning II Naval Variants Public Affairs Officer (PAO). Photo Credits Lockheed Martin.

RAF Typhoon jets fly over the snow-capped Grand Canyon on their way to Red Flag

RAF Typhoons supported by a Voyager tanker deployed to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas to take part in Ex. Red Flag. And here are a few cool photos of the lead formation en-route.

Last week, the lead formation of RAF Voyager and four Typhoon FGR4 multi-role aircraft deployed to Nellis AFB, near Las Vegas, where they will attend exercise Red Flag.

Typhoons over Gran Canyon no snow

The formation crossed the Atlantic Ocean and went “feet dry” over the U.S. East Coast near Charleston then few across the U.S. the last leg of their 6,000 mile trip to the airbase in Nevada which brought the formation over the Grand Canyon.

Typhoons over Gran Canyon close

The flight over the Grand Canyon National Park provided a unique opportunity for the RAF photographers aboard the tanker to take some stunning images of the snow-capped rims.

Typhoons over Gran Canyon snow

Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright

 

UK’s new Aerial Refueler grounded after Voyager plane plummets 2,000 feet

The incident involved one Royal Air Force’s Airbus 330 tanker returning from Afghanistan.

The UK’s fleet of brand new “Voyager” aerial refuelers has been grounded after a tanker, bringing 181 military to Afghanistan, suffered an incident in Turkey’s airspace.

Based on the first reports, the Royal Air Force’s modified Airbus 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) was overflying Turkey on Sunday night, when it suddenly plummeted 2,000 feet.

A few passengers received minor injuries hence the aircraft performed an emergency landing at an unspecified divert field in Turkey.

The UK’s MoD decided to suspend the flying activitiy of all its Voyager aircraft until the incident is investigated.

Considered that the VC-10 tanker was retired in September 2013, the only remaining tanker aircraft in RAF service is the venerable Lockheed Tristar used for dual transport/tanker role; the type of aircraft that the Voyager was due to replace.

In March 2013, four RAF Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Malaysia to take part to LIMA – Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition with the support provided by the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A: the Italian tanker has been involved in a “collective” aerial refueling certification activity, whose aim was develop common operational capacities that will enable “pooling and sharing” of important assets, including tankers.
This is not the first time an Airbus 330 (the Voyager is a military variant of the civilian plane) plummets some thousand feets while cruising at high altitude: for instance, in 2008, a Qantas A330 pitched nose-down and plunged about 650 feet in about 20 seconds (after a short climb) because of a failure in one of the ADIRUs (Air Data Inertial Reference Units) and a previously unknown software design limitation of aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight control primary computer (FCPC).
Image credit: UK MoD / Crown Copyright
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British Prime Minister to use new RAF tankers for future overseas visits after embarrassing trade trip with Boeing plane

The Royal Family and senior UK politicians may consider using one of the RAF’s “Voyager” Airbus A330 tanker aircraft for future foreign trips after a rather embarrassing trade trip to Indonesia caused a huge row.

David Cameron and his aides made the trip during the Easter period to drum up trade for European built Airbus planes (11 Airbus 330 aircraft for Garuda Indonesia airlines) using a “rented” Boeing 747. Insult was added to injury when it emerged that the lease was given to Atlas Air, a US based company, and the plane used for the journey was owned by Sonair, an Angolan carrier banned from European Union airspace over safety concerns.

David Cameron poses in front of a Garuda Indonesia Airlines Airbus during a visit to Jakarta Airport (Photo by Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Cameron’s advisors were quick to point out that they usually charter British Airways or Virgin Atlantic for foreign travel, but both airlines were busy Easter holiday and were unable to support the trip.

Since it is at least weird that a business delegation trying to support Airbus planes sales uses chartered Boeings, Britain’s aerospace lobby group said that proposals were being drawn up to let Britain’s VIP to use one of the modified A330 airliners.

According to Reuters, Robin Southwell, head of the UK aerospace industry’s lobbying association and also head of Airbus’ parent company in the UK said: “he would propose the alternative use of the Royal Air Force jets when not needed for refuelling missions.”

Southwell compared the use of the 747 to a luxury car salesman turning up in a tatty used Jaguar when he said: “If you are trying to sell an Aston Martin to someone and you turn up in a used Jaguar and say that the Aston Martin is the best thing since sliced bread and then drive off in the Jaguar, it isn’t as smart as turning up in the model you are trying to sell.”

The RAF’s fleet of 14 leased Voyager aircraft can be used to refuel other aircraft or carry troops or casualties, pretty much the same as the current VC-10 and Tristar tankers. Voyager takes this one step further in that the refuelling pods under the wings can be removed to make the plane a little less military looking jetliner in RAF colours.

It has to be said that a Voyager in RAF low-vis grey will not look as stunning at President Obama’s VC-25As Air Force One or other European leaders’ Airbus based aircraft.

Anyway, before using them to support diplomatic lobbying, maybe the UK should try to use them to refuel its Tornado strike planes that experienced worrying leakage problems during recent aerial refueling tests.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this article.

ZZ330

Image credit: Martin Hartland