A SPECIAL ceremony was held at RAF Brize Norton to mark the formal handover of responsibility for the base’s new Voyager transport and refuelling aircraft to No 1 Air Mobility Wing.

Until now the Voyager programme was managed by the RAF’s HQ Air Command but with completion in the spring of a core fleet of nine Voyagers, taking over from elderly TriStars, the focus has switched to service operations, rather than development and delivery of the planes.

Eight of the fleet are dedicated full-time to military use, and the RAF will have first call on the other six Voyagers but they will be available for charter to other operators if not needed for military duties.

The planes will provide strategic transport, air-to-air refuelling and airborne medical evacuation capabilities for the next 25 years and can refuel Typhoon and Tornado strike jets and Hercules turboprop transport planes in mid-air.

The ceremony was held at the end of last month at the RAF station’s AirTanker hangar, the base of the consortium that supplies and maintains the planes under a private finance initiative agreement.

Air Commodore David Lee, the RAF’s Air Officer Air Mobility, said: “Voyager represents a quantum leap in capability and reliability and will be essential to UK defence outputs.

“This capability is delivered through the fusion of military and commercial best practice and illustrates what can be achieved through the close partnering of regulars, civilians and reserves.”