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Delivering Multi-Role Tanker Aircraft Capability - Public Accounts Committee Contents

3  The risks in the transition from the current fleets

12. Currently, FSTA is unable to fly into Afghanistan as it does not have the necessary protection equipment to fly into high threat environments.[30] The United Kingdom started operations in Afghanistan in 2001, when the requirements for FSTA were still immature. However the Department did not recognise the need for such equipment until 2006 in their Concept of Use document for FSTA and took the decision not to include it in the contract negotiations to avoid further delays, given the advanced stage negotiations were already at. The Department's explanation for the delay in recognising such a need was the significant difference in operational conditions between 2001 and 2006, in particular the scale of the challenge in Afghanistan.[31]

13. However, four years after this recognition, the Department has still not yet decided whether it will install this equipment on FSTA, citing that the need for FSTA to fly into high threat environment is not completely self-evident.[32] The Department has also only indicative costs from AirTanker over how much the modification work would cost and no funds have been ring-fenced for such work. Given the proximity of the forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Department is now awaiting the outcome to see if it concludes there is such a need and what funding will be available before making a final judgement.[33]

14. Furthermore if the Department does decide to install this equipment, these are not quick modifications to make. On security grounds the Department did not wish to provide a clear indication of the time it might take, but estimated that a modification developed from scratch would typically take at least two years.[34] In the meantime, the Department is extending the life of the Tristar to allow it to fly into high threat environments, such as Afghanistan, up to 2016 and at a cost of £23.5 million.[35] Until a decision is made to install this equipment, FSTA will not be able to replace the Tristar fleet in its current role of flying personnel in and out of Afghanistan.[36]

30   Qq 97-98 Back

31   Qq 118-119; C&AG's Report, para 3.3 Back

32   Qq 116 and 125 Back

33   Qq 124-125 and 127 Back

34   Qq 126-127 Back

35   C&AG's Report, paras 2.1 and 3.5 Back

36   Q 190 Back

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