The RAF urgently needs new transport aircraft because its ageing fleet is struggling to cope with the pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, an influential committee of MPs warned today.
The Commons defence committee said there were “real doubts” that the elderly Hercules transports, TriStars and VC10s – some 40 years old – could last out until replacements became available early in the next decade.
It said the Ministry of Defence should urgently consider ordering more of the new generation of A400Ms, produced by the Airbus consortium, and giant Boeing C17s to ensure it could rapidly move troops and equipment to trouble spots around the world. The MPs called for an assurance that all the A400Ms would be fitted with electronic defensive aid systems to protect against missile attacks, and fuel tank inertion systems to protect against fire.
Ten servicemen were killed in 2005 – the biggest single UK loss of life in Iraq – when an RAF Hercules was shot down. It is thought the crash occurred when vapour inside a fuel tank in the Hercules’s wings exploded after being hit by enemy ground fire.
Most of the RAF’s Hercules fleet is not fitted with special foam to prevent such explosions.
RAF ‘needs new planes urgently’