Afghan airbridge trial seeks to increase capacity

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Augustus, Jun 27, 2008.

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  1. From the MoD spin machine (

    A trial looking at whether alternative routing arrangements of the Operation HERRICK airbridge, which transports troops to Afghanistan, can increase its capacity is set to begin next week.

    The trial, which begins on Tuesday 1 July 2008 for around six weeks, will extend the planned flight-time from the UK to Afghanistan by three hours, and from Afghanistan to the UK by one and a half hours. But it is hoped that it will reduce the overall time personnel spend in theatre.

    The airbridge provides a consistent and reliable service, moving large numbers of personnel and material into hostile environments under difficult conditions and over strategic distances. Indeed from April 2007 to April 2008, 72 per cent of the airbridge flights to and from Afghanistan were on time or delayed for less than one hour. However the MOD is looking to significantly improve the Service.

    The aim of the trial is to determine whether or not longer-term adjustments can be made to the Op HERRICK airbridge in order to increase its capacity, and therefore deliver overall benefits both for Operational Commanders and individuals.

    The trial will focus on the contribution made by the RAF's Tristar Fleet, and a key element entails altering the airbridge routing so that aircraft make an additional stop (in both directions) at RAF Akrotiri (in Cyprus) to refuel and change crew en-route.

    The opportunity is also being taken to capture data on weight, baggage space, catering etc, to enable a thorough assessment to be made about potential future benefits and changes. The trial is timed so that sufficient data and evidence can be gathered to be statistically valid, before the next planned roulement (which is when the Airbridge is typically under greatest stress).

    Although the trial will necessitate extended flying times, the MOD asks for understanding while these conditions apply, as it is believed they will lead to benefits downstream.

    If the aircraft experiences a delay during the extra stops, passengers will be deplaned and fed, if circumstances warrant and in line with existing practice, if the delay is serious enough, passengers will be accommodated overnight whilst an alternative airlift is sourced.

    The expectation is that the trial will demonstrate overall greater levels of robustness and hence reliability. By making the additional stop we should be able to carry greater payloads (due to shorter flying legs) and by making the additional crew change, we should reduce the chances of crew workload being a limiting factor on airbridge operations.

    The revised routing could enable the RAF to transport up to 125 more passengers per week during a roulement, which could shorten this process by up to two weeks and help maintain a typical operational tour length of six months for the majority of personnel serving in Afghanistan.

    Officer Commanding 216 Squadron Wing Commander Steve Chadwick, who operate the Tristars which carry personnel on the airbridge, said:

    "The personnel of RAF Brize Norton are committed to delivering the most efficient Strategic Airbridge and as the Officer Commanding 216 Squadron I am delighted to be leading this trial of alternative Op HERRICK routing with the aim of achieving more reliable and shorter RiPs (relief in place) and, therefore, shorter tours of duty.

    "My crews are acutely aware that the trial will result in an extension of the journey times and they will do all they can to mitigate any further delays. But we sincerely believe that the future benefits are that personnel will arrive home from Theatre a number of days earlier."

    Staff at the Permanent Joint Headquarters should receive a report of the trial in September 2008, after which time results will be analysed. If clear benefits are demonstrated, a revised routing could be implemented for the HERRICK roulement in spring 2009.

    The MOD is committed to significant investment in equipment for the Operational Airbridge, acquiring a range of aircraft - a fifth and sixth C17 as well as A400M and Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA). These will replace existing VC10, Tristar and C130K fleets.

    In addition, RAF Brize Norton's passenger handling and other support facilities will be upgraded over the next five years and Defence Minister for Equipment and Support Baroness Taylor recently cut the turf for the state-of-the-art hangar and support facilities at RAF Brize Norton in support of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme.

    I must confess to being slightly puzzled by this. Both times I returned from Herrick we refuelled at Seeb in Qatar, so how will going via Cyprus instead of the Gulf add extra time rather than shortening it? (Tin foil hat on - there's obviously better accommodation for the crews in Cyprus than in Qatar).

    Also, I noted the spin machine trying to divert attention from the shameful state of the creaking airbridge by mentioning the investment in 2 more C17s and A400M. However, neither are really to be used as the troop airbridge at all, as those who have tried to get on a C17 out of theatre will attest. So FSTA will replace VC10 and C130K - whoopy doo - but it won't help get the lads back on R&R any quicker will it?

    None of this gloss that the MoD is trying to put on the issue detracts from the shameful state and reliability of the airbridge into theatre, resulting from yet another lack of investment from this Government.

    They must think we're stupid or something......
  2. Instead of having a two leg trip on the same aircraft, why not utilise the DAS fitted Tristars purely on the Cyprus - Kandahar leg, and use non-DAS fitted Tristars (or civvy chartered aircraft as they do when going to Iraq) for the UK-Cyprus leg. You'd then possibly have a greater frequency of flights to/from theatre as there would be a reduced flying time for those airframes.
  3. At least those running it are trying to improve the service with what they have - which is all we can hope for in the immediate future.

    wg100 - what you suggest is a nightmare - cross-loading aircraft is not the most efficient way of doing business. It would dramatically increase so many bad things and end up with a longer journey.
  4. MR C_H, isn't that what is essentially done when heading out to Iraq? They are sent out on civvy air to somewhere whose name I cannot remember, and then transferred to C-130 for transit to BAS?
    As for cross-loading, the times I've had to do stopovers at Akrotiri on the way back from AFG to UK, they were usually over an hour, surely enough time for a crossload if the receiving A/C is ready to go? Outbound, a civvy chartered A/C is likely to be more reliable than the Tristars, isn't it?
  5. When I say cross-load, I'm talking about 2 x wide-bodies jets. If it is a different type of jet, the tins are different. You'd have to un-stuff then stuff each tin, re-trim the aircraft, re-do the load plan and associated check-sheets and then get it all squared away. That is a couple of hours of work and way more than just running a single aircraft through.

    Loading from a civ a/c to a C130 is a nause but easier. Bags off, onto a pallet, netted, off. Very little in the way of MHE required to do that job. Fewer numbers. If you had to off-load, re-load and re-document several hundred passengers plus kit for every flight, you are probably doubling the manpower requirements for no real gain.

    Honestly - this would cripple things.
  6. Because to operate TRI* C2 solely from AKT-KDH would mean deploying a shitload of engineering and other ground support, thus denuding BZZ. TRI* is not a 'deployable' ac. And how would you justify using civil charter to the Treasury when there are military ac available?

    Believe me - every possible variation is looked at - that's why the trial is going on....................
  7. Good luck with this 'trial'.

    My real hope is that, after safety, the top priority will be given to moving SOLDIERS to and from Afghanistan with the minimum of embuggerance. I do mean SOLDIERS and not assorted government ministers, civil servants and senior 'joes' on jollies.

    I also hope that the requirements of SOLDIERS will take priority over the five star, air-conditioned 'rest' locations for the air-crew (I was a Service pilot for many years). Anyone remember an RAF trooper going u/s in Aldergrove or Belize? Saw plenty of them fly out with only crew aboard because of unserviceability though!

    Finally, I hope that this government of nincompoops, self important non-entities and third rate toss-wits will conduct future operations in areas for which they have funded and equipped the Services. Suggestions may include: Channel Islands; Isle of Man and St Kilda. No, St Kilda unsuitable as there is no high-priced hotel accommodation for aforesaid givernment tw*ts.
  8. Is 12 hours not long enough on the return leg?
  9. .........any measure introduced to shorten tour times is most welcome. It's introduction, however, wouldn't in any way be linked to the significant increase in the cost of AVGAS, with the imperative to sweat assets more, would it?
  10. No - it would be linked to AVTUR if anything. Bulk buying of fuel isn't much impacted. Not as much as having even more people in theatre - and moving them more efficiently is time-focused, not fuel-focused.
  11. Wasn't there a famous incident involving an MP and all his fellow pax getting fcuked around at Akrotiri on his way back from a tour he did as a TA Major a couple of years back? Doesn't sound promising to me...
  12. yes - yes there was. There were c0ck-ups and a number of contributing factors, many of which were outwith the control of the people doing the job.

    What doesn't sound promising to you? I don't really think you have the faintest idea of what happens in any part of this. Perhaps you might be persuaded to share some of your wisdom with us?
  13. I think his letter summed it all up - the way they were treated was fcuking diabolical. As to my wisdom ... I've had my fair share of trooping nightmares and there are a sufficient number of similar stories out there.

    In the interests of not kicking off a urinating competition ... let's wait and see eh?
  14. Mmmm - I wonder if you've just been "leaned" on. I'm maybe being cynical, but I suspect this is more about saving money than improving the lot of the passenger; less fuel for the flight = more available payload, less flights required, or more space for freight, less stress on the C-130 fleet. 125 pax saves 10,000 kgs just in body weight alone, then add the luggage allowances/body armour/weapons; might just save a Herc freighter.
  15. Jeez Mover - I expected better from you. It isn't about saving money and it isn't about making it better for the chaps - it is about making more capacity for the op. The task has priority over the needs of the group and the individual if you like. Shorter sectors mean more can be hauled per sector - they will probably burn about the same fuel - higher payload over shorter distances. There are not too many C-130 flying freight between the UK and Kandahar either!