United Kingdom unveils new livery on government Airbus A330 MRTT

Royal Air Force Airbus KC3 Voyager - ZZ336. Photo: © UK Ministry of Defence

The United Kingdom’s Government has revealed a new livery on its Airbus A330 MRTT of the Royal Air Force, which is used for official government and Royal transport. The aircraft, registration ZZ336, is one of ten Airbus A330 MRTTs operated for the Royal Air Force by contractor AirTanker Services.

Formerly painted all grey in line with all other aircraft of this type at the Royal Air Force, ZZ336 emerged from a paintshop in Cambridge wearing a new, mostly-white livery. Featuring a stylised Union Flag on the tail and ‘United Kingdom’ markings, the aircraft now is instantly recognisable.

Known in the UK military services as the Airbus KC2/3 Voyager, ZZ336 has a unique cabin configuration from the other nine aircraft in the fleet (which have 291 economy seats). Featuring 58 business class and 158 economy seats, this allows the aircraft to transport Government ministers and members of the Royal Family to wherever the mission requires. When not being used for official business, the aircraft reverts to its conventional role as an air-to-air refuelling jet and transporter for the Royal Air Force.

The move to paint the aircraft in a bespoke livery has come under intense criticism, as the new paint job is reported to have cost £900,000. A significant amount of that sum, however, does include regular maintenance and what is believed to be some ‘military upgrades’. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, (the person set to see the most use of the aircraft) apparently requested the new livery as the previous grey was ‘boring’, and is better suited to representing the United Kingdom with its bespoke livery. Critics say that the move now makes the aircraft a more significant target, and that it was a waste of public spending.

The Airbus KC2/3 Voyager, based on the A330, took over official tanker/transport duty for the Royal Air Force in 2013, replacing the former fleet of Lockheed L-1011 Tristar aircraft.