DEFENCE ministers have admitted that the RAF has only fitted eight of its 100 Tornado aircraft with a collision-avoidance system despite the need for one on every fighter jet identified as being at major risk of a collision with passenger jets.
The admission, in a written answer to SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, comes a week after criticism by the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) that the Ministry of Defence has no plans to fit a similar system to Typhoon aircraft.
The need for a collision-warning system was identified in the mid-1990s but then shelved because of other priorities within the defence budget.
However, it became a major issue after two Tornados crashed over the Moray Firth in July 2012, claiming the lives of three airmen. It was claimed that a collision-avoidance system used by commercial aircraft could have prevented the accident in which Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders, Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey and Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole all died.
Last year, it was revealed that a collision-warning system costing about £60 million for the fighter jets was considered four years before the fatal crash and that the government decided in January 2012, six months before the crash, to tender for a different system developed by BAE which was £6 million cheaper.
The urgency for one to be fitted was highlighted last week in the MAA report which warned of the “catastrophic” consequences of a collision with a passenger jet.
The report’s author, Air Marshal Richard Garwood, said not fitting an avoidance system was “an unsustainable position”.
He added: “In the worst-case scenario, judged improbable but catastrophic, a Typhoon colliding with commercial air traffic could result in severe consequences for the MoD because of the likely substantial third-party loss of life.”
A written answer from junior defence minister Philip Dunne has revealed that only eight of the 100 Tornados flown by the RAF has been fitted with the collision-avoidance device, the Honeywell TCAS II.
Mr Robertson described the answer as “shocking”.
He said: “The MoD and contractor BAE need to get their act together and get these systems installed as soon as possible.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said yesterday that fitting the device to remainder of the fleet was “ongoing.”
He said: “While the introduction of TCAS on Tornado will add an additional layer of safety, there are already a multitude of measures in place to minimise the risk of midair collision.”
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