Royal Pain Relief: Britain’s RAF Adding BAe-146 Jets
April 18/13: BAE announces that both BAe-146 Mk.3s have now been released to service in the RAF, after a period of familiarisation and operational trials.
The 2 planes have been fitted with unspecified defensive systems “at least equivalent to other aircraft operating in Afghanistan”, an armored flight deck, fuel tank inertion, a fire protection system in the luggage bay, HF and UHF radio communications systems, and a SATCOM system.
A large upward-opening 131″ wide x 76″ high (3.33m x1.93m) freight door offers loading access for up to 23,500 pounds (10.6 tonnes) of freight, and the cabin floor has a freight loading system which allows fast installation of either palletised freight or up to 94 passenger seats. BAE has also sourced and received Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for new cabin baggage platforms and containers with an alternative layout of 54 seats, and forklift-compatible containers & cargo pallets from VRR of The Netherlands. The usual BAe-146QC “freight igloos” work, but it’s easier to transfer more standardized loads between aircraft.
The BAe-146 is an elegant 4-engine regional jetliner, optimized for short haul or regional routes, and able to handle even short take-off or unimproved runways. It has a reputation for quiet operation, and a range of about 1,800 miles/ 2,900 km under good conditions. Almost 400 of these planes were built from 1983-2002, but it’s probably best known as the Royal Family’s “CC2” VIP jet. The RAF will soon be ferrying troops and cargo with it as well; its 2 CC2s will be joined by a pair of converted BAe-146-200QCs, whose mission brief will include trips into Afghanistan.
Britain’s Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) buy was prompted by pressure on its transport fleet. The RAF’s 7-plane C-130K Hercules fleet will be retired from use by the end of 2012. Bad timing, that, as Britain needs to remove its troops and equipment from Afghanistan. Worse, the RAF’s first Airbus A400M transports aren’t even scheduled for delivery until 2014, let alone operational use in combat zones. Enter the BAe-146M solution, which the firm began promoting at DSEi 2009…
BAE’s 146QC Jets
The RAF’s BAe 146C Mk.3 aircraft have been fitted with unspecified defensive systems “at least equivalent to other aircraft operating in Afghanistan”, including a Directed Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system against portable heat-seeking missiles. Other protective additions include an armored flight deck, fuel tank inertion, and a fire protection system in the luggage bay. In the cockpit, military HF and UHF radio communications systems, and a SATCOM system, improve communication.
The converted planes have a large 131″ wide x 76″ high (3.33m x 1.93m) upward-opening rear freight door, and are to carry up to 23,500 lbs (10.6 tonnes) of freight, moved on board using a built-in freight loading system which allows fast installation of either palletised freight or up to 94 passenger seats. For troops and other passengers, the aircraft is changed by installing passenger seating fixed to pallets, creating a layout to full commercial aircraft standards that includes carpeting, toilet, galleys, and luggage storage within and underneath the cabin.
In commercial operations the new planes are capable of carrying up to 96 passengers, but the weight of troops’ equipment, and “hot and high” conditions in Afghanistan, mean that the RAF plans to max out at fewer troops per trip.
BAE has also sourced and received Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for new cabin baggage platforms and containers with an alternative layout of 54 seats, and forklift-compatible containers & cargo pallets from VRR of The Netherlands. The usual BAe-146QC “freight igloos” work, but it’s easier to transfer more standardized loads between aircraft.
Contracts & Key Events
April 18/13: Into service. BAE announces that both “BAe-146C Mk.3s” have now been released to service in the RAF, after a period of familiarization and operational trials.
Feb 18/13: The RAF has reportedly accepted its new BAe-146M jets, which will test their DIRCM jammers and flare systems over the Donna Nook weapons range in Lincolnshire. The planes will then be assigned to 32 Sqn, for deployment to Afghanistan some time in spring 2013. When not deployed, they’ll be based with the RAF’s BAe-146-100 CC2 VIP jets at RAFB Northolt, near London.
Figures released by the NAO suggest that the entire conversion program cost the UK around GBP 47 million (currently $71.6 million). Flight International.
June 21/12: Contract. A GBP 15.5 million contract covers conversion of 2 BAe 146 jets to BAe-146M configuration for the RAF. That doesn’t include buying the 2 BAe-146-200QT freighters, as the government has already purchased those from TNT Airways S.A of Belgium, and delivered from Belgium to Broughton, UK. The UK MoD’s contract expects delivery of the converted jets by March 2013.
BAE Systems Regional Aircraft at Prestwick will manage the conversion program, including overall design, managing the supply chain, and integrating the military equipment supplied by the RAF. That equipment will include things like communications gear, and defensive warning and decoy systems “at least equivalent to other UK aircraft operating in Afghanistan.” Most of the hands-on conversion work will be carried out under sub-contract, by the same firm that handled the Royal Family’s BAe-146-100 VIP conversions: Hawker Beechcraft Services facility at Broughton, North Wales.
BAE systems hopes that successful use by the RAF will prompt other militaries with aging transport fleets to look at similar “BAe-146M/ Avro RJM” conversion programs as a useful supplement and stopgap. BAE release.
- RAF – BAe-146 CC2