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The Lockheed Tristar is an air-to-air tanker and transport aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force. All were converted from civilian Lockheed L-1011-500 TriStar airliners.

Design and development

The Royal Air Force operates nine L-1011-500s Tristars, six ex-British Airways and three Pan Am. The Tristars were bought in the immediate aftermath of the Falklands War to bolster the long range capability of the RAF in the transport and tanker roles, with the initial order for the ex-British Airways Tristars placed on 14 December 1982, The three ex-PanAm aircraft were purchased in 1984. All of the aircraft serve with No. 216 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Nortonmarker.

Marshall of Cambridge performed the conversion of the Tristars. Two of the aircraft are passenger/tanker aircraft designated Tristar K1s. Another four can operate as either tankers or passenger/cargo aircraft - these are KC1s. Three are pure passenger aircraft; two Tristar C2 and the solitary Tristar C2A. The C2A differs from the C2s in having some military avionics and a new interior.

The RAF's Tristars have been subject to progressive updating, including the fitting of flight deck armour and Directional Infrared Counter Measures to protect against ground fire when flying into Iraq, and under a £22 million contract, are to be fitted with an updated cockpit.

The Tristar is expected to remain in service with the RAF until the end of this decade, when it is scheduled to be replaced by the Airbus A330 MRTT under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) program. The Airtanker consortium, led by EADS, won the FSTA contract in January 2004. Beginning in April 2004, there have been continuing rumours about the fragile state of the contract negotiations. With continuing doubts over the FSTA program, Marshall Aerospace offered to buy and convert some of the large number of surplus commercial TriStars as tankers, but this was rejected. This would give the UK a much needed increase in refuelling capacity (with the upcoming retirement of the VC-10 fleet) at a fraction of the cost of the £13Bn FSTA project.

Operational history

A Tristar K1 refuelling USN F-18s over Afghanistan, October 2008.

The aircraft have seen service in many conflicts. Two were deployed to King Khalid International Airportmarker, near Riyadhmarker in Saudi Arabiamarker during the 1991 Gulf War as tankers, with the rest used for transport between the Persian Gulfmarker and UKmarker. The two aircraft deployed received nose art naming them Pinky and Perky. During the 1999 Kosovo War, Tristars deployed to Anconamarker in Italymarker, again as tankers, with four aircraft involved. Tristars joined Vickers VC-10s in the air-to-air refuelling role for Operation Veritas (Afghanistanmarker), during which they provided aerial-refuelling for US Navy aircraft. Their most recent wartime role was again over the skies of Iraqmarker. The RAF deployed four Tristars during Operation Telic, to an as-yet-undisclosed location.


Tristar K1
Conversion of former British Airways Tristar 500s for tanker/transport role (not fitted with a cargo door), two aircraft.
Tristar KC1
Conversion of former British Airways Tristar 500s for tanker/cargo/transport role, four aircraft.
Tristar C1
Former British Airways Tristar 500s operated as passenger aircraft before tanker conversion.
Tristar C2
Former Pan Am Tristar 500s operated as passenger aircraft, two aircraft.
Tristar C2A
One former Pan Am Tristar 500 operated as passenger aircraft, different avionics to the two C2s.


Specifications (Tristar K1)

See also

Notes and references

  1. Air International December 1986, p.271.
  2. Winchester Air International January 2009, pp.52—53.
  3. Winchester Air International January 2009, p.53.

  • "TriStar Tankers...The RAF Goes Widebody". Air International, December 1985, Volume 29, No. 6. Bromley, UK: Fine Scroll. pp. 271-277, 309.
  • Winchester, Jim. "Aircraft of the RAF - Part 9 Tristar". Air International, Vol 76, No 1, January 2009. pp. 50—53.
  • Yenne, Bill, Lockheed. Crescent Books, 1987.

External links

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