A new report into one of the worst disasters in recent British military history has concluded that it happened because of "incompetence, complacency and cynicism" and the report states that the covenant between the country and it's soldiers has been broken.
Fourteen service personnel were killed when their Nimrod spy plane crashed in Afghanistan in 2006 – the largest single fatality since the Falklands War – because the Ministry of Defence (MoD) sacrificed essential safety for the sake of saving money, the review said. The independent investigation, led by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, named 10 people who contributed to the "systemic breach of the military covenant" – the duty the nation owes to its armed forces. Five of those came from the Ministry of Defence – including two senior military officers of four-star rank – three from BAE Systems and two from QinetiQ.
The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, told the Commons that two RAF officers have been removed from their posts because of their roles in the crash of aircraft XV230. They have been moved to staff positions without any safety aspects. The RAF is now considering what further action needs be taken against them.
This really is about as damning a report as I have ever read, especially as it clearly states that this accident took place because costs took precedent over safety.
The Nimrod MR2 exploded in mid-air near Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, shortly after air-to-air refuelling. The crew and passengers were on a mission to support Nato and Afghan forces in an operation against the Taliban in Helmand. A military board of inquiry found the crash was caused when leaking fuel came into contact with a hot-air pipe.
Yesterday Mr Haddon-Cave, a leading aviation lawyer, found there had been serious corporate shortcomings which led to the "lamentable" failures of a safety review carried out a year before the crash. Procedures were "riddled with errors" and the "best chance to prevent the accident to XV230 was, tragically, lost."
Incidents like this undermine the right wing claim that the private sector can do everything better than any government body ever could. In this case, when the maintenance of these aircraft was the responsibility of the RAF, the main priority was airworthiness. Once BAE and QinetiQ were in charge everything appears to have become about reducing costs and maximising profit. As a direct result of that, 14 people are dead.
The MoD's safety system was "not fit for purpose". There was serious weakness among the personnel; an "unsatisfactory" relationship between the MoD and industry; an "unacceptable" procurement process, and a culture which "has allowed business priorities" to overcome concentrating on airworthiness.
The report stated: "BAE Systems deliberately did not disclose to its customer the scale of the hazard" and only "gave vague recommendations that 'further work' was required". The work carried out by the company was "poorly planned, poorly managed and poorly executed".
The customer, the MoD, also "bears substantial responsibility for the failure of the Nimrod Safety Case" and "failed to do its essential job of ensuring the safety of the Nimrod fleet".
Mr Haddon-Cave pointed at a time between 1998 and 2006, when financial targets appeared to take precedence over safety.
The QC quoted a former senior RAF officer who told his inquiry: "There was no doubt that the culture of the time had switched. In the days of the RAF chief engineer in the 1990s, you had to be on top of airworthiness. By 2004 you had to be on top of your budget if you wanted to get ahead."
Putting profit before all else has always been a disaster waiting to happen. We saw it in the financial collapse brought about by the manifest greed of a deregulated market, and now we see it again here. Only in this case people haven't simply had their lives ruined, they have had them ended.
Robert Dicketts, the father of Lance Corporal Oliver Dicketts , said: "I think what we found the most sad was that saving money was put before safety.
"I wonder how many people would get onto a civil flight if they are told that we have cut as much cost as possible, and airworthiness is something which comes secondary."
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