Britain’s A330 Voyager FSTA: An Aerial Tanker Program – With a Difference
May 20/16: The UK has sent a RAF Voyager tanker to NAS Patuxent River to participate in air-to-air aerial refueling trials of the F-35B. Since arriving on April 18, the British tanker has participated in five flights out of a scheduled 20, which are due to be completed in mid-June. It remains unclear whether the Voyager’s deployment to the US was caused by refueling issues that arose from the B variant being unable to take fuel from the wing pods of KC-10 and KC-135 tankers.
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
A330-200 MRTT: The RAF’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft
UK FSTA: Program Details & Industrial Team
UK FSTA: Contracts & Key Events
2015 – 2016
2013 – 2014
2006 – 2007
2000 – 2005
Appendix A: PFI – The Art of the Deal
Appendix B: Britain Former Refueling Fleet
VC10s: Distinctive, but Discontinued
Additional Readings & Sources
Background: A330 Voyager Tanker/ Transports
Background: FSTA Program
Background: Britain’s Other Tankers
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