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Special Forces Hercules - Shoot-Down Inquest Underway


The inquest into the January 30th, 2005 shoot-down of a RAF Special Forces Hercules from 47 Squadron SF flight in Iraq has heard that warnings about an air-to-ground threat had not been passed on from US forces to the RAF. Information that American AH-64 Apache helicopters had come under anti-aircraft fire from the area from which the C-130K, designated XV179, was engaged had not been passed on to the plane's crew.

It's now believed that the SF Hercules was hit by small arms fire and unguided rockets while it was flying at low level, in daylight, after dropping of a team of SAS soldiers for a mission. It has been speculated that the Hercules was flying low in order to scout out potential desert landing strips to be used in support of UKSF operations. Nearby friendly ground forces observed the aircraft catch fire following being hit by small arms and rockets. Frantic radio transmissions from the stricken Hercules confirms that the plane was on fire. The fire quickly spread through the plane's wing and fuselage, igniting the fuel and causing a catastrophic explosion. All 10 servicemen on board tragically perished.

The inquest is expected to hear that a safety device, known as explosive suppressant foam (ESF), fitted to the Hercules fleets of US and Australian air forces, could have prevented the fire from spreading and causing the fatal explosion. RAF Hercules crews had been requesting ESF systems to be fitted to their aircraft for many years proceeding the Iraqi incident. ESF systems have now be fitted to the British Hercules fleet.

XV179 pictured in 1989

Britain's special forces Hercules are amongst the oldest in the RAF, with many C-130K models having first come into service in the 60s. The ageing aircraft are known as the 'antiques road show' amongst their crews. Given the extra stress caused by the demanding tactical flying required by special operations, it is, perhaps, not surprising that RAF SF Hercs have been involved in a number of crashes in recent years.

SF flight of 47 Squadron was due to begin using the newer C-130J Hercules, but problems with the onboard software, amongst other issues, have prevented the J models from being certified for the tactical role. There are now reports the 47 Squadron have begun using a small number of SF-equipped C-130Js (C.5s).

Further reading:
US delay may have doomed targeted Britons

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