Responding to a debate on the safety of military fast jets called by SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson, junior defence minister Philip Dunne admitted that it was still impossible to give a cost or timetable for a collision warning system for Typhoons which are currently the lead fast jet in RAF operations.
The debate was called following the publication of a service inquiry into the collision of two Tornadoes over Moray in 2012 which concluded that a collision warning system, first recommended 1990 and includd in the 1998 strategic defence review, could have prevented the accident.
Mr Dunne confirmed that Tornadoes will have the system by the end of the year but he admitted that it was delayed by former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox who cancelled it in 2011 to help balance the Ministry of Defence’s books. The decision was reversed three months later as a result of an inquiry into the safety of Nimrod aircraft.
But Mr Dunne insisted that a collision warning system was “not a panacea”.
The minister outlined how most RAF fleets do have such a system and one for fast jets, which has “technological challenges”, was currently being tested on two Tornado planes.
Mr Dunne said: “A third has been fitted for further development. On current planning, we intend to introduce this capability in stages from later this year.”
On Typhoon’s he added: “Analysis is currently underway into the potential to fit a collision warning system onto Typhoon aircraft but it is too early to provide a timetable for development of this capability, it is a very complex process and at this stage we are not far enough along in that process to be able to give clarity on either timetable or cost.”
Mr Robertson yesterday demanded to know why the development of a collision warning system was delayed time and again and not prioritised after it was included in the 1998 strategic defence review.
He has called for ministers and former ministers to be “put on oath” in a fatal accident inquiry.