Airbus Military delivered the first Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Bournemouth, UK-based Cobham Aviation Services for conversion into the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) configuration for the Royal Air Force (RAF).
This aircraft is the third of 14 A330 MRTTs the Royal Air Force has contracted through AirTanker, a joint venture company also in charge of operating the aircraft. The first two aircraft have already been converted at Airbus Military's facility in Getafe (Madrid), Spain.
To mark the arrival of the aircraft on its premises, Cobham hosted a ceremony at its newly refurbished facility. Representatives from the RAF, UK Ministry of Defense, Airbus Military and AirTanker attended.
As part of the conversion program, all the A330 MRTTs - which will be known in RAF service as "Voyager" - will be fitted with two wing-mounted 905E aerial refueling pods; additionally seven "Voyagers" will be fitted for 805E centre-line mounted fuselage refueling units. The first aircraft will commence operations by the end of this year, with the RAF operating the full fleet of 14 aircraft by the second half of the decade to replace its existing TriStar and VC10 aerial refueling aircraft.
Antonio Caramazana, Head of Airbus Military Derivatives, said: "This is another important milestone in the A330 MRTT Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft program. It is an enormous pleasure to see the program moving into the next phase with the conversion of the aircraft now beginning with Cobham in the home country of our biggest customer".
Air Marshal Kevin Leeson, Chief of Materiel (Air), said: "The conversions carried out at this tremendous new Cobham facility will turn Airbus A330s into the most capable military tanker transport aircraft of its type in the world. Today we celebrate the arrival of the first aircraft into the Cobham Conversion Centre. Voyager will provide enhanced levels of availability, reliability and comfort for its passengers. Its 4000 mile range carrying 291 passengers and freight will allow the UK to respond to world events with great speed. The air-to-air refueling systems will provide access to an impressive 111 tonne fuel capacity and enable Voyager to refuel a large variety of platforms, from Typhoon jets to A400M transports".