Operations with the UK Royal Air Force's remaining six Vickers VC10 tankers will conclude in September 2013, minister for defence equipment and support Philip Dunne has confirmed.

"A decision was taken in late December 2012 to resource an extension of the VC10 fleet until September 2013," Dunne said in response to a parliamentary question on 22 January.

No value has been provided for the additional cost of the action, which represents a six-month run-on for the aged type. Flightglobal's MiliCAS database lists the Rolls-Royce Conway-engined aircraft as having been delivered between 1966 and 1970.

 VC10 - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

The RAF has already retired several of its aged VC10s, including aircraft XV107 (above)

The UK National Audit Office (NAO) revealed in its 10 January Major Projects Report that the Ministry of Defence was exploring a possible extension to its out of service plans for the VC10, in order "to provide additional refuelling capability".

The type will be replaced by Airbus A330 Voyagers operated by air force personnel, sponsored reservists and crews hired by the AirTanker consortium, which says it expects to receive "imminent" approval to commence air-to-air refuelling activities.

The RAF's air transport inventory is facing several near-term retirements, with its remaining eight Lockheed Martin C-130Ks due to leave service in October 2013, and its seven Lockheed TriStar transports and tankers to be retired in March 2014.

In addition to seeing the current three operational Voyagers be expanded to a core fleet of nine, the air force's first of 22 Airbus Military A400M transports should enter service in March 2015, the NAO says. These will join the RAF's current eight Boeing C-17 strategic transports, with the use of its 24 C-130Js scheduled to end during 2022.

Meanwhile, two modified BAe 146 transports acquired for £47 million ($74.5 million) to support the UK's intra-theatre airlift requirements in Afghanistan are expected to begin operations in "Spring 2013", the RAF says.

Source: Flight International