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Hercules Aircraft: Safety

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons foam suppressant was not fitted to the wing-tanks of Hercules XL 179 which was shot down by enemy fire over Baghdad in 2005. (230524)

Explosion suppressant foam (ESF) was not fitted to the wing tanks of Hercules XV 179 in 2002 because it was not judged to be a sufficiently high priority at that time in relation to the assessed threat and emphasis was instead placed on implementing a range of other protective measures. The loss of XV179 showed that judgment was incorrect in relation to the threats which subsequently existed in 2005.

The MOD has spent over £150 million on urgent operational requirements for the Hercules fleet since 2001, including enhanced defensive aids suites and flight deck armour. Furthermore, all Hercules aircraft operating in Iraq or Afghanistan are now fitted with ESF.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the concluding comments of Wiltshire Coroner David Masters into the loss of Hercules XL179; and if he will make a statement. (230526)

I am grateful for the very thorough and professional manner in which David Masters, HM Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon conducted the inquest into the loss of the 10 personnel tragically killed when Hercules XV179 crashed in Iraq in 2005. He brought a number of lessons to our attention and it is clear that there have been failures in our procedures for which I apologise. We will address all the issues raised during the inquest, where we have not already done so.