BAE Systems wins £15.5 Million MoD Contract for BAE 146 conversions for The Royal Air Force

Prest­wick, Scot­land, BAE Sys­tems has been award­ed a £15.5 mil­lion con­tract by the UK Min­istry of Defence (MoD) for the con­ver­sion of two BAe 146–200QC (Quick Change) air­craft from com­mer­cial to mil­i­tary con­fig­u­ra­tion for use by the Roy­al Air Force.

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The two air­craft, which have been acquired by the MoD in a sep­a­rate trans­ac­tion with TNT Air­ways S.A of Bel­gium, will be used after con­ver­sion in both pas­sen­ger and freight roles to aug­ment in-the­atre tac­ti­cal air­craft num­bers, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Lock­heed C130 Her­cules force, dur­ing the upcom­ing extrac­tion phase of Oper­a­tion Her­rick, the cur­rent Afghanistan cam­paign.

The acqui­si­tion of the air­craft and their con­ver­sion is being under­tak­en under an Urgent Oper­a­tional Require­ment (UOR) and accord­ing to the MoD will offer the most time­ly, value–for-money solu­tion to tem­porar­i­ly pro­vide addi­tion­al tac­ti­cal air­craft capac­i­ty when com­pared against a range of exist­ing in-ser­vice and new air­craft solu­tions.

BAE Sys­tems Region­al Air­craft at Prest­wick will be respon­si­ble for the design and inte­gra­tion of the mil­i­tary equip­ment to be fit­ted to the air­craft, the sourc­ing of the equip­ment and man­age­ment of the sup­ply chain and over­all man­age­ment of the con­ver­sion pro­gramme. The actu­al con­ver­sion is being car­ried out at the Hawk­er Beechcraft Ser­vices facil­i­ty at Broughton, North Wales under sub-con­tract to BAE Sys­tems.

Hawk­er Beechcraft Ser­vices has con­sid­er­able exper­tise in the BAe 146 for the RAF hav­ing orig­i­nal­ly com­plet­ed the inte­ri­or con­ver­sions of the BAe 146–100s cur­rent­ly oper­at­ed by No. 32 (The Roy­al Squadron) and sub­se­quent­ly upgrad­ing these air­craft in recent years.

Among the mil­i­tary equip­ment to be fit­ted will be Defen­sive Aids Sys­tems to enable these UOR air­craft to be pro­tect­ed to appro­pri­ate lev­els, at least equiv­a­lent to oth­er UK air­craft oper­at­ing in Afghanistan.

Both air­craft have been deliv­ered from Bel­gium to Broughton and work is under­way, with deliv­ery to the MoD required by March 2013.

The BAe 146QC is equipped with a large 131 inch wide and 76 inch high (3.33m x1.93m) rear upward-open­ing freight door giv­ing a large aper­ture for the easy load­ing of pal­lets, con­tain­ers and awk­ward­ly-shaped car­go. The large cab­in vol­ume of the air­craft will allow up to 23,500 lbs (10.6 tonnes) of freight to be car­ried.

The cab­in floor of the air­craft has a freight load­ing sys­tem which allows either pal­letised freight or pas­sen­ger seat­ing fixed to pal­lets to be rapid­ly installed. The pas­sen­ger lay­out is to full com­mer­cial air­craft stan­dards with inte­ri­or trim, car­pet­ing, toi­let and gal­leys avail­able front and rear and over­head pas­sen­ger ser­vice units for each seat row and over­head lug­gage bins. There are also two large under­floor bag­gage holds.

In com­mer­cial oper­a­tions the BAe 146QC is capa­ble of car­ry­ing up to 96 pas­sen­gers, but in mil­i­tary use, the MoD antic­i­pates that the con­straints of oper­a­tional alti­tudes and tem­per­a­tures and the increased aver­age weights of armed and body-armoured mil­i­tary per­son­nel will result in a low­er num­ber of pas­sen­gers being car­ried.

BAE Sys­tems first pro­mot­ed the con­cept of the BAe 146 as a cost-effec­tive trans­port air­craft for mil­i­tary use at the Defence Ser­vices & Equip­ment Inter­na­tion­al Exhi­bi­tion in Lon­don in Sep­tem­ber 2009. In 2012 the con­cept is even more rel­e­vant giv­en the heavy oper­a­tional demands faced by many Air Forces at a time when the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cli­mate is forc­ing sig­nif­i­cant defence bud­get cuts by most gov­ern­ments.

Dubbed the BAe 146M, or the Avro RJM for the lat­er pro­duc­tion vari­ant, the air­craft is seen as attrac­tive to Air Forces who oper­ate age­ing tur­bo­prop and jet air­lin­ers that are cur­rent­ly used for trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tasks. It is esti­mat­ed that there are cur­rent­ly over 1700 such air­craft in ser­vice with near­ly 150 air arms and many of these air­craft are in excess of 40 years old.

BAE Sys­tems believes the BAe 146M/Avro RJM could also be used by Air Forces to com­ple­ment exist­ing fleets of tac­ti­cal air­lifters such as C130 Her­cules, by tak­ing on a wide vari­ety of non tac­ti­cal air trans­port roles, there­by pro­long­ing the fatigue life on age­ing tac­ti­cal assets. The BAe 146M/Avro RJM, how­ev­er, has a per­for­mance capa­bil­i­ty that means it can real­is­ti­cal­ly under­take some of the more chal­leng­ing air trans­port sup­port roles, includ­ing oper­a­tions from unpaved run­ways.

BAE Sys­tems