The RAF's largest ever aircraft has been officially named Voyager after being flown by an RAF pilot today at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - its first public appearance.
Fourteen Voyager aircraft and a complete support package are being provided to the RAF under a 27-year £10.5bn Private Finance Initiative contract signed with the AirTanker consortium.
In addition to the aircraft, training, maintenance and brand new purpose-built buildings at RAF Brize Norton, the RAF’s air transport hub, will be provided as part of the initiative.
The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, who attended today’s naming ceremony of the new strategic tanker aircraft, said:
I am delighted to see the new Royal Air Force Voyager aircraft formally presented to the public.
This magnificent aircraft is the future for the RAF’s air-to-air refuelling and passenger transport capability for the coming decades.
Voyager, together with the C-17, C-130J and the A400M transport aircraft, will provide the RAF with a truly world class fleet of aircraft, underpinning the global reach that is vital to our operations.
Voyager has a colossal 60-metre wingspan and is nearly 60 metres long. It is a dual role air-to-air tanker and transport aircraft and will replace the long-serving VC10 and TriStar.
It is a considerable capability boost, able to carry almost 300 troops over 6,000 miles (9,700km) and to air-to-air refuel other aircraft with 100,000 litres of fuel - greater than two large petrol tankers.
Voyager can refuel aircraft at a rate of 5,000 litres per minute - a garage forecourt petrol pump delivers fuel at 40 litres per minute.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, who also attended the ceremony, said:
As we have seen in Afghanistan and Libya, an effective air-to-air refuelling and transport fleet is an essential force multiplier in this era of expeditionary warfare.
Voyager, when it enters service later this year, will excel in these roles by not only increasing our air-to-air refuelling capability, but also by substantially improving our strategic airlift capacity.
Voyager is the airborne part of a flexible and cost effective whole-service contract which will enable the rapid movement of personnel around the world and provide unprecedented global reach to our combat aircraft.
We can be justifiably proud of this magnificent addition to the RAF’s fleet; it will serve our Armed Forces well for many years to come.
Voyager is expected to enter service later this year.