RAF Flies Tanker On SAF


The RAF flew one of its Voyager tankers on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and said it wasn’t just a publicity stunt. In a news release, the RAF said it’s serious about becoming the world’s first net-zero Air Force and “leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world.” The Voyager is the tanker conversion of an A330 and the RAF said it was the first military flight on all SAF of an aircraft that big and the first 100 percent SAF flight in the U.K. They made good use of the fuel.

The big twin jet took off from RAF Brize Norton for a 90-minute flight that included a simulated air-to-air refueling. It was flown by a combined RAF, Rolls-Royce and Airbus flight test crew. “It demonstrated the RAF’s potential for its future operational capability, ensuring the ability to contribute to UK defence wherever and whenever required.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Becoming a net-zero Air Force can be attained by not flying.

    However, toward that aim of a net-zero future, I predict that someday, flying machines will be developed which can take to the air with an expenditure of a mere fraction of the currently typical levels of electrons, SAF, fossil fuel, or any combination thereof, and then will be able to fly around all afternoon over vast distances and amazing altitudes without using any onboard fuel whatsoever! Someday, SOMEDAY… oh wait…

  2. Very cool. A long way from when my dad flew Vulcan bombers in the 70’s. Watched a “scramble” of 4 take off from RAF Scampton once. The noise was amazing, felt in the chest. And the crap that came out of 16 Rolls Royce Olympus engines at take off power was equally impressive. Little bits of black soot blew across the airfield as the flight of 4 disappeared into the clouds. Probably carcinogenic but my 12-year-old self loved it!

    • I can relate. My dad used to take my brothers and me out to a taxiway to watch as USAF F-4s and F-106s took off, sometimes at night. The rumble of the afterburners coursed through your entire body. Wonderful stuff for a kid. But those engines used up an obscene amount of dinosaurs – I’m glad we’re moving in the right direction.

  3. I don’t have a problem with developing aircraft that can operate on alternative fuels. After all, a turbine engine can run on almost any liquid that will burn. My issue is what is the source of the alternate feedstock and can they produce the fuel in sufficient quantities to meet the demand? Properly processed in a hydro-cracking unit, the alternate fuel can be virtually indistinguishable from petroleum jet. But, much of those feedstocks are either plant based (eg. Soybeans) or waste cooking oils or animal fats from meat processing. Hardly reliable sources of fuel in times of war.