Monday, March 31, 2008

Foam, Sweet Foam

The issue that originally inspired me to take up blogging continues, with glacial speed, to play out.

To summarise for those who haven't followed the case , the Ministry of Defence have been somewhere between stupid, mad and criminally negligent in not fitting anti-explosive foam to the fuel tanks of Hercules planes. These planes fly low over warzones and if your fuel tanks are just a metal casing full of aviation fuel, there is a chance that anyone with a grudge and a gun on the ground could bring you and your plane down in fireball. This is exactly what happened in January 2005 with the loss of 10 lives.

The latest news is that today an inquest into these unnecessary deaths was kicked off by the Wiltshire Coroner.

Now, there's every chance this inquest will be somewhat muted, because the MoD has been attempting in the High Court to ban coroners from using the term "serious failings" to describe the MoD's farcical oversights. I'm pretty sure they would probably prefer that I not use the phrase "farcical oversight", however appropriate it seems to be. Or even "penny-pinching, bureaucratic bumbling" - they probably wouldn't like that either. One former squadron commander has described the situation as "criminally insane". They definitely wouldn't like that.

The Americans have had this Explosive-suppressant foam (ESF) since the Vietnam war in the 1960s. Shortly after the British crash (January 2005, remember) a military Board of Inquiry recommended that the foam be fitted. As at the start of this month (March 2008), only 7 out of 48 aircraft have actually had this work done.

Now, I'm sure there are logistical reasons connected with the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that might delay the work, but that's hardly the point. British lives have been put in unnecessary danger over forty-odd years and rather than blame the various governments of both parties that have had held the power to do something about it over that period, I choose to blame the current government.

Why ? Because the ten casualties mean that they cannot pretend that the issue does not exist, and yet they concentrate their energy on bringing legal action to moderate the language of the coroners.

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