|Quoting BigJKU (Reply 28):|
I actually hate the British setup quite a bit. They have way to much money tied up in their transport/tanker capabilities and it is an outright mess in my view. They have lots of platforms that are half utilized and frankly should be ashamed of the situation. Can't use their A400M's as tankers because of their A330 contract. Can't refuel their C-17's or RC-135's because of the tanker types. It is just a mess.
That's a result of having to adapt to a high tempo operation as much as procurement issues.
C-17 ( just 4) were intially leased to provide a short term boost before numbers of what would become the A400M would be in service.
Post Sept 2001, the greatly expanded use of RAF transport assets would cause the C-17's to be brought and added to.
But the A400M would still be needed, since even the newer C-130J's, purchased back in the mid 1990's, had too many limitations. Besides that, the older 1960's built C-130K's needed replacement. The most worn out C-130K's had to be replaced sooner hence the C-130J buy, which was the only game in town at the time.
The C-130K fleet had not only seen long and very active service since the mid/late 1960's, many operations had been especially hard on the airframes. The long, in flight refuelled treks to the Falklands, a lot of unpaved strip operations in the first Gulf War to name two.
From the mid 1970's to the C-130J's and C-17's of the late 1990's/early 2000's, the C-130K fleet had to do it all.
All the above illustrates what has driven the yes rather messy set up the RAF now has, events.
The UK has long been the most actively deployed military outside of the NATO area, with France a close second, unlike other European AF
's well before the Cold War ended too.
This has meant the RAF's needs in modernising it's transport fleet, has operated on a different timeline to many of the others but they still want and think they need, the A400M.
Their experience has shown that the C-17 operations to date have not required in flight refuelling, it's a nice to have but not vital. Besides, there are plenty of USAF KC
-10's, French Stratotankers, Dutch KDC-10's around, the RAF tankers have many times refuelled allied aircraft, including USN
types. In late 2001, before any bases in country were established, RAF VC
-10's went way nearer Afghan airspace than other tankers to support USN
This is why we have NATO and the recent Mali operation as mentioned.