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UK facing certification challenge on RAF Airseeker fleet

The UK will have to use additional methods to complete the certification of the Royal Air Force's future fleet of three RC-135 Airseeker signals intelligence aircraft, a senior defence procurement official has cautioned.

Service introduction for the US Air Force-standard surveillance aircraft is planned to start with the delivery of one example in late 2013. The asset is currently being converted from a retired KC-135 tanker by L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas.

Referring to the certification requirements mandated by the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA), Air Marshal Simon Bollom, chief of materiel (air) for the nation's Defence Equipment & Support Organisation, says: "The evidence [on Airseeker] may be limited, or not exist at all." Speaking at the MAA's Military Air Safety conference in London on 24 October, he added: "We must be able to look at other processes."

The MAA's certification and release to service processes are intended to match the standards laid out in the European Aviation Safety Agency's Pt 21 regulations. Types to have passed through the new system so far include the RAF's Airbus A330-based Voyager tanker/transport, the Royal Navy's Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350-based Avenger rear crew trainers and the AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat helicopter, which will enter service with the British Army and RN.

The Airseeker fleet will be operated by the RAF's 51 Sqn, and based at Waddington in Lincolnshire, east England, to replace the UK's retired British Aerospace Nimrod R1s.

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