RAF chief defends pace of Hercules upgrade

London
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The UK Royal Air Force is acting swiftly to address safety shortcomings with its Lockheed Martin C-130J/K tactical transports, but must do so in the face of industrial and operational constraints, says the service's senior official.

Responding to a BBC report that criticised the pace of an explosive suppressant foam (ESF) safety upgrade and claimed that modifications had so far been completed on just seven of the RAF's 48 remaining Hercules, chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy said: "There's a balance to be struck. It is being done as swiftly as industry can do it, given that we need a certain number of C-130s to continue our operations."

The RAF has lost three Hercules during operations since early 2005 - one to ground fire in Iraq and two during landing incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ten UK personnel were killed in the first accident. "A few years ago we didn't think the aircraft would be in the sort of threat regimes they are currently operating in," says Torpy. "If the enemy changes tactics, we need to change what we do."

Air force officials note that a Board of Inquiry report into the crash of Hercules XV179 in January 2005 did not conclude that the availability of ESF - which expands to fill the void in an emptying fuel tank - would have prevented its loss, or that of the two others.