3 Operational issues |
12. As a consequence of the failure to make the Chinook
Mk3 airworthy, the Department introduced a bolt-on capability
called the Night Enhancement Package. This arrangement enabled
the use of the Chinook Mk2 helicopters in very low light conditions
when supporting special operations. The Department acknowledged
that, in order to fly with the Night Enhancement Package, the
pilots, who come from 7 Squadron RAF, need to be better trained
as it is harder to fly compared with standard Mk2 Chinooks. The
Department confirmed that there had been two accidents where the
Night Enhancement Package had a bearing on the incident.
In approving the Night Enhancement Package, the Department sought
assurances that a funded project would be developed to mitigate
the air safety risks associated with it. With the cancellation
of Fix to Field project, however, this was no longer the case.
13. Military equipment is becoming more and more
reliant on computers to assist in both their use and control.
Equipment is often supplied by overseas contractors, such as the
Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin or, in this case, the
Chinook helicopter from Boeing. The use of software to enable
equipment to function poses difficult questions for the Department
in certifying that the aircraft are airworthy and safe to fly.
The industry invests large amounts of money in the development
of software integral to the operation of equipment. On occasion,
in order to protect this investment, contractors may wish to restrict
access to the software code. The original procurement contract
for the Chinook Mk3 helicopter failed to specify access to the
software as a key requirement. As a result, access to the code
was denied and it was not possible to prove the Chinook Mk3 was
safe to fly.
14. Flight simulators and other artificial training
environments have been used successfully for many years by the
Royal Air Force to augment the actual flying training achieved
using helicopters. The ability to train pilots in other ways enables
helicopters to be available for other forms of training, for example,
pre-deployment training with infantry and other units. The Department's
current Chinook helicopter flight simulators do not provide a
close enough match to the helicopters currently in use to allow
pilots to train effectively.
This has resulted in an increase in the number of Chinook helicopters
required for use in pilot flight training, at the expense of combined
15. Through the Defence Logistics Transformation
Programme, the Department have changed the maintenance of many
key types of equipment, including helicopters. Most notably within
the fast jet environment, the Department has increased the flying
hours achieved while at the same time reducing the cost of maintaining
these expensive aircraft.
In the last six months, the Department has increased the Chinook
helicopter flying rate in Afghanistan by 20% and over all helicopters
deployed, it has increased flying hours available to commanders
by a third.
21 Q 11 Back
C&AG's Report, para 3.7 Back
Q 110 Back
C&AG's report, Transforming Logistic Support for Fast Jets,
HC (2006-07) 825 Back
Q 33 Back