UK to boost Hercules safety ‘within months’

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CRAIG HOYLE / LONDON

The UK Ministry of Defence is to enhance the self-protection capabilities of its Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules intra-theatre transports in response to the loss of one of its aircraft to enemy action in Iraq early last year.

c-130k hercules uk w445
© Tony Osborne 

The UK will fit some of its C-130K's with explosion suppressant foam

“We have decided, subject to final contract negotiations, to fit some of our C-130s with explosion suppressant foam, and expect the first aircraft fitted to be ready for operational tasking within the next few months,” armed forces minister Adam Ingram told the UK Parliament on 18 April.

The decision follows a study conducted by the UK’s Marshall Aerospace into the viability of adding wing-fire inerting systems to the Royal Air Force’s C-130J/Ks and potentially to additional transport types. The work was launched following the recommendations of a Board of Inquiry report into the loss of an RAF C-130K and the deaths of 10 personnel in January 2005 (Flight International, 13-19 December 2005). The MoD subsequently revealed that three of its Hercules had been hit by small calibre rounds and other surface-launched projectiles in Iraq during 2004, but that no modifications had been sought due to the type’s “apparent resilience”.

Several of the RAF’s C-130s are currently conducting operations in support of British and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Four of the aircraft – three stretched-fueslage Js and one K – are playing a vital role during the deployment of UK troops throughout southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, and are also providing 15 flight hours a week for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in the country.

Ingram said the UK’s Air Warfare Centre will “review the effectiveness of foam in aircraft fuel tanks”, but declined to reveal the number of aircraft to undergo modification, or reveal the cost of the planned partial fleet upgrade. The air force has not reported any damage to its C-130s as a result of ground fire since the loss of the C-130K in Iraq last year.

■ An RAF C-130J has become the first fixed-wing transport to deliver supplies to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. To be used to support some of the 3,300 UK personnel to be deployed to southern Afghanistan by mid-year, Bastion’s newly completed tactical landing strip opened for business on 10 April.

Blog:
Flight International's operations and safety editor's first operational squadron as a pilot was the Royal Air Force's transport No 70 Squadron, traditionally designated LXX. He blogs from its 90th anniversary party on what fellow LXX alumni think about the squadron's Hercules operations around the world and the UK defence ministry's plans to fit fuel tank intering systems as a safety measure.