The FAAM Airborne Laboratory is undergoing transformative change

With over 20 years supporting science in the skies, the FAAM Airborne Laboratory will now significantly enhance the services it provides, maximise performance as a research facility, and extend its operation to 2040. A £49 million investment by UK Research and Innovation will fund a six-year programme known as the Mid-Life Upgrade. 

The Mid-Life Upgrade programme began in 2021 and is due for completion in 2027.

FAAM aircraft inside the Hangar



Our three objectives are to:

  • Safeguard the UK’s research capability – allowing the facility to meet the needs of the research community, enhance the range of services available, and respond to environmental emergencies
  • Provide frontier science capability – meeting new and existing research needs and supporting ground-breaking science discoveries, with a flexible and world-class airborne laboratory
  • Reduce our environmental impact – maintaining and improving the performance of the facility, and minimising emissions and resource use from aircraft operation

The Mid-Life Upgrade programme has six themes


Aircraft – Modifications to the aircraft to enhance baseline performance and future-proof the facility

Science Infrastructure – Modernisation of the aircraft’s science systems to deliver optimal services and provide flexibility

Science Instrumentation – An upgraded set of instruments to support world-leading atmospheric science and research outputs

Process Development – Assessment of how to improve processes and methods across the facility to support future operation

Operations – Enhancements to the operational capability and characteristics of the facility

Resources – The people, infrastructure, services and technology needed to deliver the facility and the Mid-Life Upgrade Programme

The main activities for each year


2021 – Establishing project management systems, and initial scoping with stakeholders

2022 – Planning and initiating aircraft upgrades, setting up feasibility studies, understanding requirements, specifications and design implications

2023 – Developing aircraft and related infrastructure upgrades

2024 – Ongoing aircraft and infrastructure modifications, with further procurement, manufacturing and testing

2025 – Ongoing infrastructure and process modifications, with further procurement, manufacturing and testing

2026 – Validating and testing modifications

2027 – Completing upgrades and modifications, with final commissioning of instruments and evaluation of scientific performance

A chart showing the breakdown of events happening during the Mid-Life Upgrade Programme between 2021 and 2027 across the six themes: Aircraft, Science Infrastructure, Instruments, Operations, Process Development and Resources.


The Mid-Life Upgrade programme is supporting the FAAM Airborne Laboratory and involves a range of delivery partners:

  • UK Research and Innovation
  • Natural Environmental Research Council
  • National Centre for Atmospheric Science
  • University of Leeds
  • BAE Systems
  • Airtask Group
  • Avalon Aero
  • Cranfield Airport at Cranfield University

Up Next…

See how we’ll develop our capabilities through the Mid-Life Upgrade