As one of the world’s largest private finance initiative (PFI) contracts, the £13bn FSTA programme has been designed to replace the RAF’s VC-10 and TriStar aircraft with 14 Airbus A330-200s for use during air refuelling and air transport.
Following successful completion of the flight, the first aircraft is undergoing civil fit with the next production stage being its militarisation and tanker conversion. The fleet has been designed to carry a minimum of 80 tonnes (100,000 litres) of aviation fuel per aircraft with a fuel-dispensing rate from the aircraft of approximately 80 litres per second.
The consortium, made up of Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales UK and VT Group, plans to deliver the first aircraft by 2011 with around 50 per cent of the basic aircraft and 100 per cent of its conversion work for 12 of the 14 FSTA fleet to be carried out in the UK.
According to Thales, the programme will sustain up to 3,000 jobs in the UK and a further 4,500 through the supply chain.