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THALES : Voyager achieves its first flight in RAF service

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04/10/2012 | 10:46am EDT

10 April 2012

The first Voyager aircraft took to the skies on 8 April 2012 for her maiden flight under the command of an AirTanker crew, to signal the commencement of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) service to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The FSTA programme is being delivered by the AirTanker consortium, of which Thales UK is a member.

The aircraft, a version of the Airbus Military A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft, took off from RAF Brize Norton for a training sortie around the UK to allow the AirTanker crew to familiarise themselves with the aircraft and achieve the first part of the Voyager crew training schedule.

The Voyager aircraft was delivered by Airbus Military to AirTanker at the end of last year and demonstrates a development in technology that will provide the RAF with an advanced air-to-air refuelling, passenger transport and aero medical capability. As a modern and efficient airframe, Voyager is quieter and more fuel efficient than any other aircraft currently based at RAF Brize Norton.

AirTanker Services (ATrS), the service delivery company, is ready to support and operate the Voyager aircraft to Civil Aviation Authority standards. Based at RAF Brize Norton, ATrS has built a strong team including both civilian and military expertise.

AirTanker plans to deliver the full capability of 14 aircraft by 2016. The nine aircraft that form the RAF core fleet will be delivered by May 2014. The service will operate aircraft on both the military and civilian registers. 

Phill Blundell, Chief Executive of AirTanker, says: "The aircraft is a magnificent airframe that combines efficiency, effective tasking capability and reliability. The programme brings together the best of the civilian aviation industry with military operational expertise and will offer an innovative and multi-functional capability to meet the demands of the 21st Century."

Dave Mitchard, Managing Director of AirTanker Services, says: "We have all been looking forward to introducing Voyager into service as a valuable asset for the Ministry of Defence. I am proud of the team's achievements in reaching operational service and the hard work will now continue to ensure we offer the best possible service for the RAF."

The next 12 months will see the Voyager team conduct planned procedural activities ensuring the aircraft continues through its intensive programme to be ready for future operational environments. During this time, the aircraft will be based at RAF Brize Norton to allow air and ground crews to complete Air Transport and air-to-air refuelling familiarisation training and development on the aircraft type.

Thales UK provides the mission simulators, defensive aids, avionics and mission planning systems for the FSTA programme.

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

  1. AirTanker Services was created in 2008 to deliver the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) service to the UK Ministry of Defence, which will provide the Royal Air Force with a reliable, safe and efficient Air Transport (AT) and Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) service over 24 years. 
  2. The Voyager service will use 14 new, specially converted, state-of-the-art A330-200 aircraft, each of which will be capable of carrying up to 291 passengers with associated freight or aero medical patients (up to 40 stretchers) in addition to its AAR role. As well as reducing overall running costs and significantly improving reliability, the aircraft will have considerably less impact on the environment than its predecessors. 
  3. The Voyagerservice covers all aspects of an integrated aircraft service, ranging from the provision of the infrastructure, a full flight crew and engineer training service, through to aircraft maintenance, despatch and ground support. It will combine best practice from civil aviation with RAF operational expertise and military ethos to create an efficient and effective operational solution for the RAF. 
  4. The Voyager service will be provided by AirTanker Services under fixed pricing arrangements with clear performance indicators. The MOD will only pay for the capacity that it uses, subject to agreed minimum usage levels.
  5. AirTanker Services is contracted to operate the service from AirTanker Ltd, who hold the Contract from the MOD. AirTanker Services has five shareholders, who are also primary sub-contractors for the programme. They are: EADS (aircraft manufacture and initial conversion via Airbus Military); Cobham (refuelling equipment and aircraft conversion); Rolls-Royce (engine assembly, support and project management); Thales UK (mission simulators, defensive aids, avionics and mission planning systems); and Babcock (infrastructure and communications/information systems, design, build and support, and certain elements of technical support to the aircraft).
  6. For further information about AirTanker and the Voyager programme, please visit www.AirTanker.co.uk

About Thales and Thales UK
Thales is a global technology leader for the defence and security and the aerospace and transport markets. In 2010 the company generated revenues of £11.2bn (€13.1bn), with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 22,500 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.

Thales UK employs 8,000 staff based at 35 locations. In 2010 Thales UK's revenues were around £1.5bn.

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