Philip Stevens reports on the Vickers VC-10 which has been in service with the RAF for 40 years.
The RAF celebrated 40 years of service of the VC-10 in July 2006. 101 Squadron is now the only squadron operating the VC-10, since 10 Squadron disbanded in October 2005. 101 Squadron has ten of the C.1K version, which had previously been operating with 10 Squadron. They also have four K.3 and two K.4 variants still in service. The VC-10's operate alongside 216 Squadron with their Tristars from RAF Brize Norton. To commemorate the 40th anniversary in July 2006, VC-10 C.1K (XV104) was painted with a special red tail and inscribed '40 Years of RAF Service 1966-2006'.
The C.1's were delivered to 10 Squadron from July 1966 to August 1968 to fulfil the role of transporting military personnel and VIP's to locations around the world. They can also perform Aero-medical Evacuation duties as and when required, and then carry up to 76 stretchers with six medical attendants. In addition to the crew of four, the C.1 can carry 150 passengers with six medical attendants. It has an un-refuelled range of over 3,600 miles (5793 Km). The VC-10 has an impressive maximum level speed of Mach 0.86 and a maximum cruising speed of 568 mph (914 kph).
From 1991 to 1996 Flight Refuelling converted the C.1's to C.1K standard to enable them to air to air refuel. Two Mk.32 wing mounted refuelling pods with an under fuselage CCTV camera, were the principal modifications carried out. Without any extra fuel tanks installed, the aircraft continued to have the same capabilities as before, and really only air to air refuel when transporting passengers over long distances.
By 1982 BAe Filton had completed conversion of a number of ex civilian airline VC-10's to K.2 and K.3 standard. Five ex-British Airways Super VC-10's were later converted to K.4 standard as the Victor K.2's were gradually being phased out. 101 Squadron was reformed in 1984 to operate the 'new' VC-10 tankers. 101 Squadron had a different role to 10 Squadron, prior to 10 Squadron's disbandment, in being responsible for all the air to air refuelling of Britains fighters, throughout the UK Air Defence Region and on exercises around the world. A VC-10 is on permanent standby at Brize Norton and can take to the air in just 15 minutes. The VC-10 K.3/K.4 variants have three refuelling points, comprising of two underwing pods and a single fuselage-mounted Hose Drum Unit (HDU) refuelling point.
The VC-10 is expected to serve with the RAF for another ten years, when they will be replaced by the Airbus A330 MRTT.
In October 2006, XV104 took to the air as part of a two-ship tanking sortie over the North Sea as part of exercise 'Wycombe Warrior'. By the end of the October XV104 special markings were removed.