The RAF has rolled out a specially painted Airbus A330 Voyager KC2 multi-role tanker/transport for special use as a VIP transport for senior UK government officials and members of the Royal Family.
Now known as “Vespina”, the aircraft – serial ZZ336 (c/n 1363) – arrived back at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on June 25, wearing its new, bespoke scheme. The livery, which cost £900,000 (US$1.1m), was applied at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group's (MADG's) facility in Cambridgeshire.
According to the RAF, “the aircraft now proudly displays the Union Flag alongside RAF markings and is ready to represent the UK across the globe… The smart new paint scheme will promote the UK around the world while transporting ministers, senior members of the Royal Family and their delegations on trade, diplomatic and other missions.”
Although the special schemed Voyager will provide a dedicated VIP transport role with its bespoke new look, the aircraft also remains certified to continue its original role as an air-to-air refuelling and personnel transport platform.
Air Cdre Simon Edwards, the RAF’s senior responsible officer for the project, said: “This project was a privilege to have been involved in and I am delighted to have seen it delivered so quickly and efficiently, together with our industry partners. The aircraft’s new paint scheme will better reflect its prestige role which we are proud to undertake.”
The project originated during the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015, which outlined plans to use a Voyager aircraft in a VIP transport role. However, until now the aircraft had been visually indistinguishable to other Voyager MRTT aircraft operated by the RAF.
After “Vespina” was unveiled, observers were quick to take to social media to point out that the Union Flag applied on the tail was backwards or upside down. This is a notable misinterpretation. When looking at the starboard side (right hand side) of the aircraft, the observer is looking at the reverse side of the flag. This method is applied on a number of RAF aircraft bearing the Union Flag and the convention is even followed on the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) VC-25A – Air Force One – aircraft.