The UK Royal Air Force has accepted two freshly modified BAe 146 quick change transports, with the pair to be deployed to Afghanistan following the completion of training activities and electronic warfare system trials.
Previously operated by TNT Airways, the passenger/freighter aircraft have been brought up to the new C3 operating standard under an urgent operational requirement deal contracted with BAE Systems during 2012. Now in grey service markings, the aircraft carry the military registrations ZE707 and ZE708.
Both 146-200QC aircraft will perform flight trials over the Donna Nook weapons range in Lincolnshire to test the performance of their newly installed self-protection equipment. Work to bring them to the RAF's theatre entry standard for Afghanistan has included the installation of two directional infrared countermeasures turrets beneath the tail and one below the forward fuselage, along with flare dispensers.
Acquired to help meet the UK's intra-theatre lift requirements inside Afghanistan, the transports have been purchased and modified under a programme worth an eventual £47 million ($72.7 million), according to figures released by the UK National Audit Office. They will be assigned to the RAF's 32 (The Royal) Sqn, which already operates two BAe 146s in the -100 standard for VIP transport tasks from the service's Northolt base in north London.
The Ministry of Defence says the new assets will be deployed to Afghanistan following the completion of training, test and acceptance activities, with its expectation being for their introduction during "spring 2013".