Supporters of families with relatives killed in a January 2005 hostile fire incident in Iraq have issued a warning to the UK government that they will sue for corporate manslaughter if there is any further loss of life involving Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules intra-theatre transports.

UK broadcaster BBC has reportedly obtained leaked documents from the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) showing it has been put on notice for the manslaughter charge by groups representing the families of the 10 military personnel killed in the incident, in which a C-130K (XV179) was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery near Baghdad in January 2005.

UK C-130K Hercules W445
© RAF Lynham

A C-130K Hercules leaving RAF Lyneham in early April on its way to Afghanistan

A December RAF Board of Inquiry report showed the aircraft had not been fitted with explosion suppressant foam, to contain small arms fire in the wing fuel tanks. Campaigners claim lack of such defences, common in other air foces' Hercules, is proof of neglect on the behalf the government, which it will use in a corporate manslaughter case if there are further incidents. Corporate manslaughter rules in the UK cover employers' responsability to provide adequate safety equipment. Pressure groups maintain that the installation of fuel tank foam devices on aircraft that routinely fly missions low over hostile territory is a just such an essential safeguard.

Separately, the sister of a Royal Air Force sergeant killed in the incident plans to sue the MoD for compensation, citing lack of adequate protection for the air crews and army personnel on board. 

Flight International revealed last month that the MoD is planning on upgrading the Hercules fleet to include fire supressant foam in the fuel tanks within months. “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.

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.

Audio download:
Flight International's defence editor Craig Hoyle was interviewed last week on British Forces Broadcasting Service Radio 2 about the plans to beef up the protection for the RAF's Hercules fleet.  The MoD has confirmed that a fire suppression system is to be fitted to the fuel tanks of those C-130s deemed most at risk from groundfire, in line with the recommendation of the board of inquiry into last year’s fatal crash in Iraq and Flight broke the story. Hear Craig's interview here from the Glen Mansell Interview programme.

External link:
British Broadcasting (BBC) has obtained leaked UK Ministry of Defence memos documenting the case and victims' families' claims. Read its full story from its news website.
or Listen to the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme explain the case for fire supressant foam technology to be fitted in the UK's C-130 Hercules fleet in an audio dowload

Source: Flight International