Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 17:01 UK

Crash Hercules 'in ambush site'

Hercules C130k
The plane was flying at low level, through a known ambush zone.

An RAF officer who probed the shooting down of a Hercules aircraft in Iraq said a failure of intelligence had led to it entering a "known ambush site".

Wing Cdr John Reid told an inquest that senior commanders had not passed on vital information that other aircraft had been shot at in that same area.

He said: "Tragically, the Hercules flew into the same ambush."

Ten men died after the low-flying Hercules C-130K was shot down between Baghdad and Balad in January 2005.

The inquest heard previously how two US helicopter crews were shot at by insurgents in the area shortly before Hercules XV179 flew through the same air space.

Had the vulnerability (lack of fire suppressant foam) been known then the crew would not have flown that profile
Wing Cmdr John Reid

But due to a communication failure, an incident report never made it through to intelligence officers until it was too late.

Wing Cdr Reid, president of the military Board of Inquiry, said the failure to warn the pilot was more important than the Hercules' well-publicised lack of ESF (explosion-suppressant foam), which stops fuel tanks in the wing exploding if hit by enemy fire.

The inquest has heard that a 2002 Tactical Analysis Team (TAT) report sent to senior RAF figures said Hercules wing tanks were the most vulnerable part of the planes, liable to explode if hit by small arms fire, and that ESF would offer protection.

However, no action was taken and the message about the wing tanks' vulnerability was not passed on to crews either.

'Greater failure'

Wing Cdr Reid said ESF would probably have saved the crew's lives but, regardless of whether it had been fitted, a still greater failure was that crews were not even told of the crafts' vulnerability - that a Hercules could potentially be felled by a single enemy round.

Had the crews been told, said Wing Cdr Reid, they could have changed their tactics accordingly.

"I'm not so disappointed that the aircraft did not have ESF," he told the inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

"I'm more cross that the vulnerability was not known. Had the vulnerability been known then the crew would not have flown that profile (low level; about 150ft or 46 metres).

"Had the aircraft been hit at a higher level, it could have given the crew more time to sort something out."

Wing Cdr Reid also confirmed that all RAF Hercules C-130 aircraft that are "routinely deployed" in Iraq and Afghanistan have now been fitted with fire-suppressing ESF.


The loss of XV179 was the largest loss of life in a hostile act during the Iraq conflict and the largest tragedy suffered by the RAF for many years.

The victims based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire were:

  • RAF 47 Squadron's Flt Lt David Stead, 35, the pilot
  • Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25, the co-pilot
  • Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42
  • Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34
  • Australian airman Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, 35, a navigator
  • Chief technician Richard Brown, 40, an avionics specialist
  • Sgt Robert O'Connor, 38, an engineering technician
  • Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, of Fareham, Hampshire, a Royal Signals soldier
  • Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39, from Strike Command Headquarters, RAF High Wycombe
  • Corporal David Williams, 37, a survival equipment fitter.

In pictures: 'Hercules' footage
01 Feb 05 |  In Pictures

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