With the RAF now suffering a crisis in its advanced jet training capability following the grounding of its Hawk T2 fleet due to engine woes, Alan Warnes asks why the UK MOD appears to be in disarray and whether or not this will be exacerbated in the upcoming Integrated Defence Review Refresh.
The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) fleet of Hawk T2 fast-jet pilot training aircraft has been grounded as a safety precaution as the type continues to suffer from issues with its Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk 951 non-afterburning turbofan engine. This move comes in the wake of revelations from the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee about the RAF’s advanced jet training set up.
What’s happening is crazy and obviously not really the fault of the service provider, Ascent, but with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems for not getting their acts together. We have known about these issues for a while, but it wasn’t until evidence to the Select Committee laid bare what is going on that all parties could no longer deny that UK Advanced Jet Training (AJT) was in disarray.
The RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, actually told AFM in our recent Qatari Hawk feature (see p88-93 in AFM March or read online here): “After past, well documented problems at RAF Valley, [he was now] completely satisfied with the RAF Valley performance.” Really? Obviously, ACM Wigston is easily pleased!
Quite frankly, I think it’s possible the UK MOD could be guilty of misleading the taxpayer, to which it is ultimately accountable. As we went to press, we heard that the Leonardo Helicopters AW159 Wildcat AH1/HMA2s of the Army Air Corps (AH1) and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (HMA2) had been grounded, allegedly due to “tail blade debonding and delamination”, which would seem pretty serious. Leonardo said it would issue AFM with a statement through the UK MOD, but this had still not arrived as we closed our latest issue.
UK defence seems to be in a bit of a mess at the moment, which might be exacerbated by the impending Integrated Defence Review Refresh due to take place in late March or early April in response to the Ukraine War and the UK’s continuing economic crisis. Our thoughts on this will appear next month.
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