Tuesday, 19 April 2011
The RAF's first billion dollar aeroplane
Getting very little song and dance in the news is the arrival of the first of 14 new aircraft for the RAF for in-flight refuelling and troop transport. And these 14 planes dear tax payer will be costing you £10.5 billion pounds.
That may not sound like much, but actually it is for what you get. The RAF are billing the planes as the largest ever flown by them, but so what? The plane is in fact a slightly converted Airbus A330. The A330 isn't the biggest plane that Airbus build, being smaller than the 4 engine A340 and much smaller than the super-jumbo A380. This variant is actually a shorter variant, the A330-200.
So what does it do? Well first of all it flies troops around, like a normal A330, landing at airports, like a normal A330, carrying 291 troops up to 6,000 miles. A normal A330-200 carries about that number of passengers, crew and luggage for 7,200 miles, but hey. The Voyager (fancy name) also has 2 cargo compartments, forward and aft to get all that equipment round the world ... just like the bog standard A330-200.
However, the new plane does more. It also has in-flight refuelling capabilities, implemented by a 100,000 litre tank in the middle of the plane (actually lifted straight out of the A340, but what the heck) and military avionics.
Now let's remember that this spanking new plane (actually not new yet because it is still in testing) basically has the same refuelling functionality as the VC-10's and Tristars currently in use with the RAF which were retro fitted to those aircraft when they were handed over by BOAC in the 1960s. So it can't be that expensive.
Comparing the price with the $1 billion per aircraft that we will be paying for these planes (no paint job, just military grey), what would you expect to pay for a run of the mill unconverted A330-200 these days?
According to Airbus, about $200 million, but with haggling and bulk discounts for 14 planes that should come to around $170m with some flight simulators and training thrown in, which means that through MOD incompetence, we are blowing an extra $830 million on each plane.
Let's call that 2 new hospitals per plane.