Monday, September 04, 2006

Nimrod MPA down in Afghanistan

The deaths of 14 UK military on Saturday all came from one incident - the crash of a Nimrod MR2. That is the RAF's aircraft that does the same mission of our P-3C.

The Nimrod had 12 aircrew and 2 "riders" onboard doing an overland mission over Afghanistan when they went down for "unknown mechanical reasons."

For those wondering what a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPR nee MPA for you old Cold Warriors) was doing overland, the reason is that they have some of the best real-time Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance kits around. That is all I will say about that.

Tough nut in both AF and IQ where these guys are flying what little airframe time they have left off quickly. If one of these go down you either lose 12-20+ (the upper number in the ES versions) people, or if they are lucky enough not to go boom at 30K and make it to the deck, you have to find a way to conduct CSAR in with that many people.

The fact remains that those planes, the Nimrod and the Orion, are old as dirt. The last few years, it has been almost impossible to get P-3 support in anything but the top shelf operations simply because they are parking planes left and right that are no longer safe to fly. I am sure Skippy has more details than I do, but talking to the MPR guys is a sad conversation a lot of times. Shipmate of mine a couple of years back had three tactical P-3C to share between two squadrons for over half his Command tour. Was age a cause of the MR2 going down? Let the investigators find out. Hard to do when most likely there isn't much left. One bad part about the MR2 is that it has 4 engines inside the wing, so if one of those things throws a blade, odds are it is going to take something else out as well.

Aviation is a tough game. One bolt or turbine blade away from not coming home.

Our prayers should go out to the RAF crew and their families. Losing a dozen personnel from one command is devastating - especially in a community as small as that. Good coverage at the BBC here, here, and here.

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