Friday, December 06, 2013

On Friday, December 06, 2013 by Luke iMan in , ,    No comments
The UK is to field a new collision warning system (CWS) for its fleet of Panavia Tornado GR.4 strike aircraft before the end of 2014, it was disclosed on 3 December.

Answering questions in the House of Commons, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said that ground trials of the system are set to begin in February 2014, to be followed by flight trials during March and April.

"The programme remains on track to meet its in-service date by the end of December 2014," he noted.

BAE Systems was awarded the contract to install the new CWS in December 2012, with the work set to be worth GBP53.5 million (USD87.5 million). Two aircraft were delivered to the company's facility at Warton in August 2013 for the trial installation of the modification.

Although the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is in the process of drawing down its Tornado fleet ahead of the introduction into service later in the decade of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the CWS upgrade is seen as critical to ensuring the safe operation of the remaining fleet out to its 2019 retirement date.

This is borne out by the loss of two aircraft over the Moray Firth off the northeast coast of Scotland in July 2012. Two of the four crew members involved in the incident died when their aircraft came together during low-flying exercises in poor visibility conditions. The service inquiry into this accident was complete at the time of writing, but not yet publically released.

The RAF's five remaining frontline GR.4 squadrons (2, 9, 12, 31, and 617 Sqns) will be trimmed to three by mid-2014 with the disbandment of 12 and 617 Sqns. As part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the Ministry of Defence said it would reduce the GR.4 force from the 40 force elements (FE) then operational to 18 FEs by March 2015.

With an FE representing the aircraft required to sustain ongoing operations plus a number held in readiness to deploy in the event of a crisis, a force size of 18 FEs would suggest a fleet of approximately 50 aircraft (based on the 40 FEs at the time of the SDSR being made up of 108 aircraft). [via]


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