RAF details chain of events in Hercules shoot-down

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Flight International Online news 11:00GMT: The loss of a Royal Air Force Lockheed C-130K Hercules transport to hostile fire in Iraq earlier this year has prompted the service to review its operational tactics, intelligence collation and dissemination procedures and to consider acquiring additional aircraft safety systems, says chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

The steps are also among the recommendations made by a Board of Inquiry (BOI) established to investigate the causes of the 30 January accident, which killed 10 people.

Published by the UK Ministry of Defence on 8 December, the BOI's report reveals that 47 Sqn-operated XV179 came under co-ordinated attack from multiple weapon sites while flying at low level during a daylight mission between Baghdad and Balad.

Several projectiles struck the heavily fuelled aircraft just 6min into its flight, causing a brief fire in its outer starboard wing before an explosion in its number 4 fuel tank detached an outer wing section of 23ft (7m).

The crew made a brief radio transmission reporting "we are on fire", but the aircraft crashed within no more than 15sec of the explosion, the report says.

Two US Army Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters had come under fire within 3km of the crash site earlier the same day, but the report reveals that as the allied Air Component Headquarters "had no visibility of XV179's tasking or routing, the significance of the earlier attack was not apparent to them".

The MoD has not revealed the weapon types involved, but says another two RAF C-130s were hit in the wing by similar ground fire in the year prior to the accident, in both cases suffering only minor damage.

"The aircraft's apparent resilience led to a perception that the aircraft was not vulnerable to this type of weapon", the report says.

The UK is now studying equipping its transports with fire inerting systems to reduce the risk of potentially explosive fuel/air mix, and of providing the C-130K with a basic air data recorder.

It has also restricted its transport aircraft operating in Iraq from conducting low-level flights in daylight unless deemed "operationally essential".