RAF strips jets for spare parts: Typhoons torn up for Libya air fleet

Pan.bg 16 юни 2011 | 13:50 views (1312) commentaries(0)
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The RAF is tearing apart state-of-the-art fighter jets for spare parts to keep warplanes flying over Libya.
Three Typhoons, costing ?125million each, are being cannibalised at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to cover a desperate shortage of parts.
Eight Typhoons are taking part in bombing raids and enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. The jets also patrol the Falkland Islands and provide the Quick Reaction Alert force protecting UK airspace.
But to save money, air chiefs did not order enough spare parts for the warplanes when they came into service two years ago.
This means three jets had to be grounded in March so RAF technicians could raid them to keep the maximum number of Typhoons in the air.
Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, who asked a series of parliamentary questions about the jets, said: ‘It is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money to have 375million pounds sitting in the RAF equivalent of a salvage yard providing spares to keep other planes in the air.
‘Spares should have been easily sourced and in the original contract.
‘The RAF needs to shake itself out of this Steptoe and Son mentality and sort out its logistics problems once and for all – and ministers should be leading this process.’
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: ‘It is vital that the MoD gets a grip on procurement.
‘When our brave forces are in action overseas people will be dismayed that millions of taxpayers’ pounds are being wasted on aircraft that aren’t in action.’
Commander Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward, decorated for flying Harrier jump jets during the Falklands war, said: ‘The Typhoon is an astronomically expensive aircraft that is ill-suited to any role outside UK airspace.
‘It is essentially a very expensive RAF sacred cow.’
The Public Accounts Committee, the House of Commons spending watchdog, said the decision to ground some of the world’s most advanced jets was ‘questionable’.
The Ministry of Defence believes the problem will continue until 2015, when sufficient components should be in stock.
Retired Air Commodore Andrew Lambert said the practice of raiding aircraft for spare parts was ‘neither new nor unusual’.
These planes, dubbed ‘Christmas trees’ by mechanics, were usually undergoing a six-month overhaul so it made sense to strip them of

parts if another jet urgently needed one.
‘If you are saying is it better to have spares so you don’t have to cannibalise a plane, then probably yes,’ he said.
‘But there is not an awful lot of money in the defence budget to do this. If you have to rob Peter to refit Paul, then you get on and do it.’
RAF sources said equipment was often taken off a plane as soon as it came into service and fitted to another jet in the operating fleet.
Defence equipment minister Peter Luff said: ‘This is a routine measure. None of these aircraft was in the forward fleet.’
The shortage of spare parts means some Typhoon pilots are grounded because they can’t put in enough flying hours to remain battle ready.

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