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RAF Hercules XV206

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

I am able to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force board of inquiry into the loss of the RAF Hercules XV206 in Afghanistan on 24 May 2006.

The purpose of a board of inquiry is to establish the circumstances of the loss and to learn lessons from it; it does not seek to apportion blame.

The board of inquiry was convened on 25 May 2006 and has considered a mass of evidence. The board has established that on 24 May 2006, an RAF Hercules C 130K on a routine operational passenger and freight flight landed at Lashkar Gar tactical landing zone. On landing, the aircraft suffered significant damage to the front port main landing gear, resulting in debris puncturing the port wing fuel tanks, which in turn caused an uncontrollable wing fire leading to the loss of the aircraft. The board has concluded that these events followed the detonation of an explosive device buried under the surface of the tactical landing zone. Following extensive investigation the board concluded that the device was an anti-tank land mine.

A military aircraft accident summary is being placed in the Library of the House and on the MoD’s website. In addition, a redacted version of the main body of the board of inquiry report will be available on the website. As you will appreciate, the safety of our people is a principal consideration and we have removed from the report any information that might endanger the security or capability of UK and coalition personnel or be of use to an enemy. We have, however, tried to be as open as possible and have carefully considered the public interest arguments both for and against disclosure of the information in the report. We have ensured that each redaction can be justified by an appropriate exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.

I remind the House that the purpose of the inquiry in identifying those factors which contributed to the loss is to identify lessons to be taken forward, rather than to apportion blame. The board made a number of recommendations that we will study closely. Indeed, we have acted on many of them already. The main recommendation was that we review the force protection procedures at tactical landing zones. Air Command and Permanent Joint Headquarters have developed revised force protection procedures and tactics to be employed at tactical landing zones in operational theatres. These are now being used by force protection teams on operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The board of inquiry concluded that, had the aircraft been fitted with explosion suppressant foam, it would not have prevented the loss, as explosion suppressant foam does not prevent fuel leaking if the tank is punctured.

I express my gratitude to the president of the board and his team for their painstaking work.