Tornado collision: Warning system was ‘cancelled’

A COLLISION warning system which could have prevented a fatal crash between two Tornado jets in Scotland in 2012 was cancelled twelve years after a commitment to its implementation had first been made by Defence chiefs, according to new Freedom of Information request released today by the Scottish National Party.

A Tornado GR4 pictured flying over RAF Lossiemouth. Picture: Defence Images/CC
A Tornado GR4 pictured flying over RAF Lossiemouth. Picture: Defence Images/CC

Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray, is pressing for a fatal accident inquiry into the fatal crash on July 3rd 2012 which claimed the lives of three RAF crewmen and left another RAF crew member severely injured.

Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders, Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey and Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole were killed when the two Tornado GR4s, based at RAF Lossiemouth, collided over the Moray Firth.

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It was revealed in December, in a written answer from Tory defence equipment minister Philip Dunne, that a collision warning system costing around £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.

But Mr Robertson today revealed that a new Freedom of Information request, had disclosed that the then Conservative Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, cancelled its installation a full twelve years after a commitment had been made to do so against the advice of the Military Aviation Authority. The MAA had warned that, without installation of the system, they would not be able to certify the risk of collision as being acceptable

Mr Robertson MP said: “These new revelations are shocking and I believe that the families of the victims of the fatal Tornado crash now deserve the fullest answers and the whole truth.”

He continued: “Why did the then Secretary of State for Defence ignore the clear advice of the head of the Military Aviation Authority and cancel the installation collision warning system, only to reinstate it several months later? How much delay did this add to the installation of collision warning system? Was its ‘deletion’ honestly agreed to as part of cost cutting measures?

“The MOD has a lot of questions to answer about why they do not appear to put the safety of service personnel first. Given this further information there must now be a Fatal Accident Inquiry.”

Mr Robertson claimed: “It is scandalous that the MoD committed to a Tornado collision warning system in the 1998, bizarrely cancelled it 12 years later, then changed its mind – but all far too late to potentially avert that fatal crash in 2012. Some 16 years on – it has still not been installed.”

He added: “We don’t know whether such a system would definitely have stopped the collision above the Moray Firth in 2012 and saved lives, but that is what must be determined by an FAI.”

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “There are already a range of mitigation measures in place to minimise the risk of mid-air collision. A collision warning system is currently being installed in the Tornado GR4 fleet and is expected to be in service later this year.”

She explained: “There are many layers of collision mitigation including extensive professional aircrew training, use of Indication Friend or Foe, internal radar for tracking other aircraft, ground based radar and air traffic services.”