Archive for the ‘XV179’ Category

The Board of Inquiry into the loss of the Hercules C-130K XV206 on landing at Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan on the 24th of May last year (see here) has reported (pdf link). More documents are here.

After much effort, and extensive exploration of all sorts of other options, the Board concluded that (as was blindingly obvious from the beginning) the aircraft was destroyed by enemy action, specifically that it ran over a Soviet-type anti-tank mine on landing. Among other things, the investigators carried out an experiment involving such a weapon and an old C-130 to falsify their hypothesis. This explanation accorded entirely with the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s initial report from the crash site, which was originally discarded for reasons that are not made very clear.

For that matter, two men aboard XV206 who had survived IED explosions in Iraq thought the experience was identical; the Special Investigations Branch lost no time in telling them they were wrong. (para 44, page 3 of the first doc above.) This may be accounted for by various experts’ advice. Or perhaps that it was politically difficult to admit that Lashkar Gah was dangerous.

The conditions prevailing there in May, 2006 were clearly very dangerous indeed. Everyone appears to have been dubious about force protection, and especially about the Afghan police stationed in the area. An OLRT (Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team) from Permanent Joint HQ, which reconnoitred the place in February 2006, concluded that security on the landing zone was “insufficient to meet UK requirements”. The details have been censored. However, the next sentence refers to “clearance” of the zone, which implies that mines or IEDs were the concern.

Anyway, the security force for Lashkar Gah airfield only arrived after the crash, but not before the Afghan police had had unfettered access to the crash site; no wonder they didn’t find any pieces of the mine. “The Board considered that the disparity between the recommendations in the PJHQ recce and the procedures carried out on the day of the incident was a significant factor”; I bet they did. They further concluded that ground security there was inadequate and that there was no plan to search for mines, that the lack of security meant anyone could have interfered with evidence, and that the investigation was mismanaged.

Further (page 27), the situation was thought so dangerous that the crew were carrying small arms and were meant to be wearing armour, types censored. However, it seems they weren’t wearing it and left their weapons behind in the plane; they didn’t have anywhere to put the gear on their persons, and hadn’t been issued with the fire-retardant version of CS95 uniform.

There is, it turns out, no single centre of expertise on aircraft survivability and vulnerability in the UK; although the Board of Inquiry on XV179 asked for one to be created, and in the meantime for an arrangement with the US to use their SURVIAC centre at Wright-Patterson Air Base, nothing has been done.

The upshot is that no amount of explosive-suppressant foam would have saved XV206; if you have enough wallop to carve holes in a tank, you’ve got more than enough to destroy an aircraft. The fuel tank punctures were of some 4 square metres; nothing is going to self-seal that. I was wrong to put so much emphasis on it at the time, although it is still a good thing to have.

David Axe is out with the Queen’s Royal Hussars group again, and he is still in the grip of raging Brit Romanticisation Disorder. Please, enough with the Lawrence of Arabia stuff. Or, well, get a room, or a secluded tent at least.

More seriously, he’s impressed by the tactics and the determination to keep the support structure and insult to society to a minimum. Very wise, I agree. But it gives little sense of security. The weekend’s IED attack on a boat in central Basra, with four dead, shows a continuing deterioration of security in southern Iraq. The explosion occurred not far from the Old State Building camp, under a pontoon bridge – it should surely be worrying that bombs get under one of the main bridges over the Shatt al-Arab. Last week, another soldier was shot by a sniper inside the same camp. The zone of insecurity is widening.

So how is the C-130 explosion-suppressant foam getting on? When Labouchere calls for stores or reinforcement that won’t fit in a Merlin chopper, one of the RAF’s Hercules fleet makes a tactical landing at a flat bit of desert chosen by the troops and makes off as swiftly as possible. So far, after the aircrews’ rebellion over the loss of XV179, there are a total of 2 Hercules with the foam installed. The problem is that Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge has done the sort of thing your dad did with that IKEA wardrobe with the first plane.

They got the foam in there all right, but they had some trouble getting the plane back together. I’m not informed whether there were any bits left over, but when they tried to fill the tanks, deliciously inflammable kerosene drifted out of sloppy cracks and soaked the whole thing. A wee spark would have fieryd-up the ship and all who sailed in her.

David Axe is out with the Queen’s Royal Hussars group again, and he is still in the grip of raging Brit Romanticisation Disorder. Please, enough with the Lawrence of Arabia stuff. Or, well, get a room, or a secluded tent at least.

More seriously, he’s impressed by the tactics and the determination to keep the support structure and insult to society to a minimum. Very wise, I agree. But it gives little sense of security. The weekend’s IED attack on a boat in central Basra, with four dead, shows a continuing deterioration of security in southern Iraq. The explosion occurred not far from the Old State Building camp, under a pontoon bridge – it should surely be worrying that bombs get under one of the main bridges over the Shatt al-Arab. Last week, another soldier was shot by a sniper inside the same camp. The zone of insecurity is widening.

So how is the C-130 explosion-suppressant foam getting on? When Labouchere calls for stores or reinforcement that won’t fit in a Merlin chopper, one of the RAF’s Hercules fleet makes a tactical landing at a flat bit of desert chosen by the troops and makes off as swiftly as possible. So far, after the aircrews’ rebellion over the loss of XV179, there are a total of 2 Hercules with the foam installed. The problem is that Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge has done the sort of thing your dad did with that IKEA wardrobe with the first plane.

They got the foam in there all right, but they had some trouble getting the plane back together. I’m not informed whether there were any bits left over, but when they tried to fill the tanks, deliciously inflammable kerosene drifted out of sloppy cracks and soaked the whole thing. A wee spark would have fieryd-up the ship and all who sailed in her.

OK, so our last fit seemed to have got results. The MOD had, it seemed, finally found the cash to give the RAF’s C130s the explosion suppressant foam in the fuel tanks that the Americans and Australians fitted 40 years ago, after the loss of XV179 on election day in Iraq and an unprecedented campaign by the aircrew themselves.

Well. It seems that six or so aircraft have been done out of 25, and then no more. It costs about £20,000 a go…feel free to compare this figure with whatever example of waste you like. But there is good news. After going public on the 2nd May, within three days, the RAF’s order for the Airbus A400-M transports was changed – from only 9 aircraft with the full defensive aids suite and the foam, to the lot.

Unfortunately, though, the rest of the fleet are still in need. Sign the petition here. It’s not as if it’s urgent.

OK, so our last fit seemed to have got results. The MOD had, it seemed, finally found the cash to give the RAF’s C130s the explosion suppressant foam in the fuel tanks that the Americans and Australians fitted 40 years ago, after the loss of XV179 on election day in Iraq and an unprecedented campaign by the aircrew themselves.

Well. It seems that six or so aircraft have been done out of 25, and then no more. It costs about £20,000 a go…feel free to compare this figure with whatever example of waste you like. But there is good news. After going public on the 2nd May, within three days, the RAF’s order for the Airbus A400-M transports was changed – from only 9 aircraft with the full defensive aids suite and the foam, to the lot.

Unfortunately, though, the rest of the fleet are still in need. Sign the petition here. It’s not as if it’s urgent.

Liars, Liars, Liars

They lie, they lie, they lie lie lie. We already knew that, but this is rather surprising in its sheer bare-arsed obviousness. Apparently, when Bush made his speech blathering about those “suspected mobile biological weapons labs” that turned out to be for filling weather balloons, the US government already knew from their own investigation of the vehicles that they were completely unsuited for anything WMDlike.

Not that it helps very much to know this, but it’s nice to have it on record, so we can tie it to the shaft of the icepick that eventually gets driven in to the cracking skull of neoconservatism. To understand it, I suppose, you’ve got to look at the historical context; summer 2003, just as we went over that sick-stomach heave of oh shitty shitty shit, we’ve really, really fucked up this time. That realisation was when the tenuous restraints on Alistair Campbell’s ego finally failed under air load, causing it to erupt like a polar bear from inside a cheap wardrobe and flip him into catastrophic instability and a war against the BBC. That was when the frantic demonisation of anyone who disagreed with the mad crusade in Iraq cranked up. It was a time for one of two courses – either dignified self-elimination (think John Profumo) or hardening into cultist fanaticism (think Powerline).

It will also come as absolutely no surprise to anyone with half a clue that the same people were at the bottom of the mobile-labs bullshit as were at the bottom of all the other WMD bamboozleology. It was the “Curveball”/Chalabi mob, that ever-reliable OC-192 link routing 10 gigabits a second of utter nonsense direct to the US/UK governmental group brain, aided as usual by the hyperfuckwit Michael Ledeen’s Italian spook mates.

One possible outcome of Berlusconi’s long-earned, richly deserved outkicking is, of course, that some clarity might emerge with regard exactly what motivation the Italian secret services had in cooking up the mess of chicken-fried bullshit used to sell the invasion of Iraq..

Information has reached me that some progress may have been achieved about the C-130 Defensive Aids Suite, and specifically about the foam in the fuel tanks that might have saved the crew of XV-179 on election day in Iraq. Apparently the K fleet (super-E in US parlance, CMk1 in UK officialese) are getting their foam as we blog, and the Js may do in the future. I wonder if it had anything to do with the delightful story that Geoff Hoon didn’t know the plane that took him to Kabul wasn’t foamed-up, armoured or DAS-equipped…until they told him! (Damn, I’d have given an eye to see his tory little face go blank with terror.)

Moving swiftly on, can anyone explain why, as the 16th Air Assault Brigade’s build up in Helmand continues and the first casualties are reported, the RAF Harrier squadron is being recalled from Kandahar? The Paras will be relying for most of their firepower on six Apaches (being deployed for the very first time by British forces, and the first really complex aircraft to be used by the Army Air Corps – what is the serviceability rate going to be like?), and whatever the USAF can spare when the call comes. If they have learned to distinguish a British soldier from a goat, rock, suspected possible Taliban insurgent or pizza since last time out, that is.

I think it’s probably because the II(AC) Squadron deployment to Kandahar was at least in part seen as a substitute for sending troops last year as the deployment slipped steadily to the right. Now, the logic (or what passes for logic) runs, the troops are going and so the planes can be pulled. Which is bizarre. We’re short of soldiers, but we’ve got essentially a whole air force (less a slack handful of F3s in the Falklands and GR4s in support of Iraq) patrolling the hostile skies of Lincolnshire and waiting for the chance to take “premature voluntary release” and join BA..

Liars, Liars, Liars

They lie, they lie, they lie lie lie. We already knew that, but this is rather surprising in its sheer bare-arsed obviousness. Apparently, when Bush made his speech blathering about those “suspected mobile biological weapons labs” that turned out to be for filling weather balloons, the US government already knew from their own investigation of the vehicles that they were completely unsuited for anything WMDlike.

Not that it helps very much to know this, but it’s nice to have it on record, so we can tie it to the shaft of the icepick that eventually gets driven in to the cracking skull of neoconservatism. To understand it, I suppose, you’ve got to look at the historical context; summer 2003, just as we went over that sick-stomach heave of oh shitty shitty shit, we’ve really, really fucked up this time. That realisation was when the tenuous restraints on Alistair Campbell’s ego finally failed under air load, causing it to erupt like a polar bear from inside a cheap wardrobe and flip him into catastrophic instability and a war against the BBC. That was when the frantic demonisation of anyone who disagreed with the mad crusade in Iraq cranked up. It was a time for one of two courses – either dignified self-elimination (think John Profumo) or hardening into cultist fanaticism (think Powerline).

It will also come as absolutely no surprise to anyone with half a clue that the same people were at the bottom of the mobile-labs bullshit as were at the bottom of all the other WMD bamboozleology. It was the “Curveball”/Chalabi mob, that ever-reliable OC-192 link routing 10 gigabits a second of utter nonsense direct to the US/UK governmental group brain, aided as usual by the hyperfuckwit Michael Ledeen’s Italian spook mates.

One possible outcome of Berlusconi’s long-earned, richly deserved outkicking is, of course, that some clarity might emerge with regard exactly what motivation the Italian secret services had in cooking up the mess of chicken-fried bullshit used to sell the invasion of Iraq..

DAS Again

Big media pick up a bit on the Hercules defensive-aids suite story (see here and here). Not much dig-in, though. This is just the latest in a sea of bullshit – there are 9 out of 25 RAF C-130s that have the full fit of defensive gear, including some really clever stuff like the Directional IRCM laser that picks out enemy missiles to flash an IR light in their eyes. However, the others don’t have anything like that.

Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram told the House of Commons back in 2002 that all the aircraft used in Afghanistan had the DAS, but they didn’t, and as previously posted the paperwork was fixed to get around the CENTAF threat matrix for Afghanistan. Geoff Hoon actually flew into Kabul on one of the not-defended C-130s, although no-one is sure if he knew he was in danger. (In fact I can answer that – does anyone think Hoon would have been on that plane if he thought his skin might be at risk?)

I’m also getting worried that the Op. Herrick deployment is drifting back towards an under-supported, over-numerous incoherence. This Air Assault Brigade we are sending only seems to be taking 6 Chinook and 4 Lynx, and perhaps some Apache (although they seem to be going quiet all of a sudden) – and the RAF Harrier squadron in Afghanistan is being withdrawn.

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?