New retirements cut RAF VC10 fleet to four

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The UK Royal Air Force has retired another two of its Vickers VC10 tankers, with the pair's departure reducing its inventory of the Rolls-Royce Conway-engined type to only four examples.

K3-model aircraft ZA149 was transferred to Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire on 18 March from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, the service says. It was followed two days later by ZD241, its final example from five ex-British Airways airliners to have been converted to the K4 configuration for the air-to-air refuelling role.

 

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Formerly operated by the RAF's 101 Sqn, both aircraft will be used as a source of spare parts to support the remaining fleet's continued operation. Under current plans, the last of these will be retired from use in late September. The oldest examples have been in operation since 1966, and were originally flown as passenger transports.

The VC10's duties are progressively being assumed by a growing fleet of Airbus A330 Voyagers, which are being provided under a private finance initiative deal with AirTanker.

Three of the new-generation types are in use in the air transport role, with up to another five due to arrive at Brize Norton this year. Air-to-air refuelling training flights are expected to commence in the near future, with full capability due to be declared in May 2014. AirTanker is to field 14 A330s under the programme, with nine allocated to a core fleet for dedicated operations with the RAF.