RAF Trashing

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Hugin, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Clapped out in Qatar

    Feb 12th 2007

    From Economist.com

    Our defence correspondent passes a point of no return


    NEVER more will I associate the word “military” with “efficiency”. We are supposed to fly to Afghanistan care of Britain’s Royal Air Force, but when we turn up at Brize Norton, west of Oxford, we are told our flight has been cancelled for lack of crew. When we turn up the following day at 10am we are told the flight is full because it has to take on the previous day’s stranded passengers, and journalists are “not a priority”. A few calls to the Ministry of Defence soon set the record straight. No doubt some poor Royal Marines are told to come back tomorrow. Let’s hope they don’t catch up with us in Afghanistan.

    Brize Norton is a throwback to a different era of air travel. Unlike Heathrow airport, it has no swanky shopping mall, only a stationer’s shop and a little coffee-bar that has run out of hot dogs. Goodies on sale include spare bootlaces, insect repellent, camouflage paint and other essentials for the combat soldier.

    My eye is drawn to a display case of “prohibited items” for military flights (shown below). Remember the nail clippers and cigarette lighters that are imperiously confiscated from ordinary passengers in civilian airports? Here they worry about commando knives, machetes, pistols, ammunition and knuckle-dusters; the kind of thing a Royal Marine might forget to leave at home. At least bottles of water are OK. Flak-jackets and helmets are compulsory in the cabin, to be worn on landing in the Afghan war zone. We are soon to discover, however, that the more immediate threat to our lives is not the Taliban, but the appalling state of the RAF’s fleet of 30-year-old Tristar transport planes.

    The buses to the plane are loaded according to rank. Colonels and lieutenant-colonels go first, followed by officers, and then other ranks. We journalists appoint ourselves majors, in the hope of getting decent seats. Just as we are about to reach the aircraft, though, the retreat is sounded. The plane has developed a technical fault and we must wait some more.

    We finally make it on board on hour or so later, only to face more delays. One of the anti-missile defence turrets has broken down, and the captain must obtain permission to fly finally from the higher-ups.

    It is dusk by the time we take off. In the galley, crew members have pinned up a map showing our intended progress with hand-written crosses. Somewhere over the Caucasus there is one marked “point of no return”. Beyond that, explains a crew member, “if anything goes wrong we don’t have enough fuel to go back”. The plane would have to limp on to Kandahar, or negotiate for permission to land in a possibly less-than-hospitable country along the way. I am assured it would not be the first time this has happened.
    But useful on a long flight

    Everybody in the British forces, I discover, has an RAF horror story to tell. Transport delays are commonplace, eating up valuable R&R leave. One soldier recalls how, instead of closing the doors before take-off, the crew accidentally inflated the escape chute. Another recounts how his plane hit the runway too hard on landing and damaged its tail. Even the crew members are keen to retell their experiences of flying in these rust-buckets.

    Not long ago Tony Blair delivered a speech explaining why Britain still had to exert hard power around the world. If so, he'd better order some new planes. British cabinet ministers long ago stopped using the RAF transport fleet, preferring the Queen's Flight, or even posh private charters. But they still send the boys to war in clapped-out aircraft. The captain tells us that, in the case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. But above my head I see only a hole. The ceiling panel has come off, revealing the inner guts of the fuselage. Spare parts, apparently, are hard to come by.

    Still, we make it into Afghan air space without mishap―only to hear, as we circle Kandahar, the captain announcing that we will not be landing after all. Another turret has broken down, and we must divert to an American base at al-Udeid, in Qatar.

    It proves to be an American city in the desert, complete with outlets for Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins and Burger King. The British reception tent has dusty camp beds and some tea on offer; the American chow-hall offers pancakes and bacon, the air-conditioned accommodation tents have lovely bunk beds with orthopaedic mattresses. A British NCO briefs us on our behaviour on base. The Royal Marines must honour the British uniform, and compliment their American hosts whenever possible. “You will be subject to American military discipline,” he bellows, “they arrest you first and ask questions later.” Forget the special relationship. For America, Britain is just the poor relation.
  2. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    Nothing new here. The transport fleet has being on its last legs for years and is expected to last a good few years more.

    It will take a crash to get anything done about them.
  3. The RAF can't take the rap for this one - it's £ s d plain and simple. If all you can afford (or are prepared to invest in) is a banana republic militia guess what you'll end up with? Our hard earned credit with 'allies' is certainly on the wane.
  4. journalists are “not a priority”. A few calls to the Ministry of Defence soon set the record straight.

    Cnut. Hope this didn't happen on the return journey as well.
  5. What annoys me most about this article is not the overall tenor of the report, this is nothing new on ARRSE and the debate has taken place over many, many pages, but that someone decided that the journalists were priority! It wouldn't have happened on my shift *harrumphs and rustles telegraph*.

    Hopefully someone may get the point that whilst some crabs are charlatans of the highest order, we are operating an extaordinarily difficult airbridge. Made difficult solely by a lack of personnel and equipment. Heaven forfend a politician might take the hint.
  6. I've been really lucky and have never been delayed (touch wood), apart from the time we couldn't get the DAF 45 up the ramp of a C17 and we had to wait a couple of hour for it to be winched on, but you can't blame the RAF for us having pap trucks. Ergo Thank you RAF.

    However this is not E-Goat so don't expect too many others thanks
  7. Missed that. More or less describes the calibre of this 'Defence Correspondent'. Any half decent journalist would have gracefully accepted their lot.

    Jumped up twat.
  8. He/she does come across as a spiteful whinger, if he had not been messed around but he had heard stories from the troops about the RAF would he have still written the piece?

    He should get an honest job and make his mum proud.
  9. Let's hope the lads who will have been waiting desperately for their RIP and much needed R&R DO catch up with you, you ugly fucking donkey wanker.
  10. Look on the bright side. The PMs forthcoming new plane, Blair Force One, is now rumoured to be a Boeing 777. Perhaps Gordon will lend it to the RAF when he's not using it to fly home at the weekends.
  11. Its fair comment, wherever it comes from. As for jumping the queue, I assume that as the MoD were organising the trip, the MoD had an interest in them actually getting there.
  12. You'd think the MoD would be more concerned with getting actual troops into Afghanistan, rather than another bunch of whingeing journos though!
  13. spike7451

    spike7451 RIP

    Feck!My Tri-Star broke down in Assie back in 88!They're ex-BA jets who are probably nearing the end of their flying hours (If not already!) & as for replacing them,MoD are 'pining' their hopes on that FTA (Future Transport Aircraft) IF it ever gets off the drawing board! Me,it think it's going the same direction as the F35 & Typhoon & gonna be another mega over budget,years late piece of kit!
    Maybe Stelios has a few jets to spare.......
  14. Couldn't Cargo-Combi 747's do this job? Plenty of airframes with lots of life left and spare parts a-plenty.

    As for the journalist concerned....

    You wasted a valuable opportunity to get questions asked, and put the spotlight on why Forces personnel and RAF Aircrew are travellig in airframes that are past their 'fly-by' date , to concentrate on your war holiday story. Jerk.

    Any other journos out there want to write the story the way it should have been written?

    "Why are our people being subjected to this".
  15. If the "journos" hadn't been given a place, we wouldn't be reading about the poor state of the aircraft, would we? The Economist carries a lot of weight in the political world - don't knock it!