A Slight Return to XV-179

You may remember the shooting down of the RAF Hercules aircraft XV179 on election day, 2005, in Iraq. This blog ran quite a lot of stuff about it – some reasonable, some utterly ludicrous speculation. In the event, it turned out that the plane really was involved in special forces support (contrary to my scepticism of the time), but the cause of the crash has been left open. John Reid has used the words “lucky shot”, but whatever it was, it caused a large explosion in a fuel tank.

What is new, though, is that a year before that, RAF Hercules aircraft without the complete defensive-aids suite, and without cockpit armour or foam in the fuel tanks, were flying into airfields in Afghanistan where other coalition members went only with the full monty of multiple countermeasure jammers, fire suppression, armour (not to mention only flying by night). And, wonderfully, because all the aircraft taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom were subject to a common command with a common “threat matrix”, these movements were carried out using the ISAF callsign, thus being a purely RAF responsibility.

And, fascinatingly, out of the countries taking part in the Airbus A400M project, only the UK didn’t specify the fuel-tank inerting system, which in the event of a hit squirts nitrogen into the tanks to exclude the mixture of fuel and air. Why on earth would that be?

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