RAF to fly second-hand BAe 146s in Afghanistan

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The UK Ministry of Defence plans to buy two used BAe 146s to supplement its air transport activities in Afghanistan, with the pair to be acquired and modified under an urgent operational requirement deal.

First details of the planned purchase emerged in late December, when the MoD issued a contract notification seeking expressions of interest from potential suppliers of two "BAe 146-200 series quick change aircraft". Sources said the deal could be valued at around £6 million ($9.3 million).

The introduction of the assets could partially fill a looming capability gap caused by the gradual retirement of the Royal Air Force's remaining Lockheed Martin C-130K tactical transports and the delayed introduction of a new fleet of 22 Airbus Military A400Ms.

"The purchase of two second-hand BAe 146 aircraft, upgraded to theatre entry standard, helps to address an urgent Operation Herrick requirement for additional aircraft to enable the safe transport of troops and freight in theatre," the UK's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation said in response to questions from Flightglobal. "The aircraft will supplement the hard-working C-130 Hercules fleet in providing safe (protected) movement between bases for troops in theatre."

 

© Danijel Jovanovic/Air Team Images

TNT has previously sought a buyer for two BAe 146-200QC transports

A formal tender for the acquisition should be issued in late January, according to DE&S, which said it "will look to purchase the most appropriate aircraft to minimise the performance, time and cost risk to make them operationally ready". Only five aircraft are listed in the configuration identified by the MoD, according to sources, with freight operator TNT having previously sought a buyer for its two examples.

Once acquired, the used transports will receive modifications including the addition of defensive aids system equipment to protect them from any attack by insurgents armed with surface-to-air missiles.

Selection of the four-engined regional type follows a previous six-month deal between the MoD and Titan Airways, which saw the UK charter airline support troop transport requirements in the Middle East region using one BAe 146 from late 2009. It also comes a little over two years after the then-BAE Regional Aircraft organisation unveiled a proposal to adapt the 146 for military transport applications for potential customers, including the UK.

 

© Gaviscon gallery on flightglobal.com/AirSpace

It is unclear which RAF unit will be responsible for operating the modified aircraft once they have been adapted for use in Afghanistan. Two 146-100-series aircraft (one pictured above) are currently assigned for VIP transport duties with the service's 32 (The Royal) Sqn at RAF Northolt near London.