In a damning annual report, the director-general of the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), Air Marshal Richard Garwood, has warned that, by September last year, the number of near-misses had already reached 181, exceeding the total for all of 2013 by ten.
The lack of an aircraft collision avoidance system has been a major issue since two Tornados crashed above the Moray Firth in July 2012, killing three airmen.
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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has agreed to fit a system to the Tornados but has failed to do so for the Typhoons, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.
The air marshal noted that, while most collisions had taken place below 3,000ft in the past, “our aircraft now spend more time at medium level [above 3,000ft] and this has increased the likelihood of a fast-jet conflict with commercial air traffic”.
He noted the RAF is fitting warning systems to Tornados but was critical of a failure to fit them to Typhoons – the RAF’s most advanced main fighter jet. He said: “In my view, not fitting an air collision avoidance system to the Typhoon is an unsustainable position and I recommend this should be pursued with full haste.”
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.”
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, whose constituency includes RAF Lossiemouth, said such a system was recommended internally by the MoD for the RAF 20 years ago.
He said: “This is a hugely damning report for the MoD. Twenty years after it was proven and recommended that these systems would save lives, they remain to this day uninstalled.
“It is clear the MoD, with its cavalier approach to safety, has learned no lessons as it has not made the systems mandatory on new fast jets, while it drags its feet installing them on the ones in use already.
“Importantly, this report lends even more weight to the calls for a fatal accident inquiry into the tragic collision in July 2012.”
Mr Robertson added that those responsible must be “fully held to account”.
An MoD spokesman said Tornados are having a system fitted while another for Typhoons and Hawks is in the concept stage. He admitted new Eurofighters, which are to become the UK’s main fighter jet strike aircraft, have no system fitted. He added: “The department has welcomed the MAA’s report, and is acting upon its recommendations.”
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