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PICTURES: UK's A330 tanker tests launch 'Voyager' of discovery

The Royal Air Force's new Airbus A330-based Voyager tanker/transport has begun receiver clearance testing in the UK, with its first ground activities having involved a Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft.

Pictured at the Ministry of Defence's Boscombe Down test site in Wiltshire, the Voyager is one of two A330s to have been modified so far by Airbus Military under the UK's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme. It arrived at the MoD/Qinetiq base on 4 May from the company's Getafe plant near Madrid and transferred the first fuel from its starboard hose and drogue refuelling pod the following day.


Both images © Qinetiq

All of the UK's future fleet of 14 A330-200s will be equipped with Cobham 905E underwing pods, while seven of them will also be configured with a centreline hose refuelling unit supplied by the same company.

To enter use from November at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, the FSTA fleet will be provided by the AirTanker Services consortium under a private finance initiative deal worth around £10.5 billion ($17.1 billion).

© Qinetiq

The current test activities at Boscombe Down follow an earlier visit by a Voyager in mid-April. Once operational, the fleet will also provide in-flight refuelling support for RAF types including the Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin C-130.

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