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MP questions lack of Typhoon safety system

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Defence chiefs were under fire last night over their failure to fit the new Typhoon fast jets with a collision warning system.

The findings of an investigation into a mid-air crash involving two RAF Lossiemouth-based Tornadoes were released today – and identified the absence of the technology as a major factor.

Last night, Moray MP Angus Robertson said it was “difficult to believe” the more advanced Typhoons were also operating without the alert system onboard.

The Ministry of Defence already has plans to fit it to Tornados by the end of the year – but no similar programme exists for the new jets, which recently moved to Lossiemouth from RAF Leuchars in Fife.

It is understood the Military Aviation Authority’s (MAA’s) inquiry into the Tornados crash off the Caithness coast nearly two years ago will say the collision would not have happened if the aircraft had warning systems onboard.

Mr Robertson, who is SNP defence spokesman, said: “Fighter jets in Scotland are a regular sight, particularly in Moray, which means the safety of these aircraft is directly relevant to the wider community.

“Many people live underneath the regular flight paths of the Tornados and, since their recent move to RAF Lossiemouth, the Typhoons.

“It is difficult to believe the Typhoon aircraft was not installed with a warning system right from the very start. They are mandatory on civilian aircraft.

“Fighter jets are extremely expensive and the crews are extremely well trained at considerable cost.

“It makes no sense for this essential safety measure not to have been installed on the Typhoons.”

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that no hard decisions had been made on upgrading the Typhoons.

She said: “A collision warning system will be fitted to Tornado fast jets later this year and we are exploring options for its introduction on to further aircraft, including the Typhoon.”

The MAA’s 18-month investigation into the mid-air collision on July 3, 2012, was completed in December, but its findings are only being made public today.

The 2012 crash claimed the lives of flight lieutenants Adam Sanders and Hywel Poole, as well as Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey.

A fourth man, who has never been named publicly, survived the collision.

The 300-page report is understood to be highly critical of the MoD’s repeated delays – dating back to 1998 – in fitting warning systems.

In 2011, a £50million contract to instal them in the Tornado fleet was cancelled.

The decision was later reversed following advice from the MAA that it would create a “chronic risk”.

Mr Robertson has called repeatedly for a public inquiry to be held into the circumstances of the crash.

He said: “For far too long the Ministry of Defence has been getting away with decisions about airworthiness and safety.

“This has cost lives and it must end.

“There is now an overwhelming public interest in having a fatal accident inquiry into the events surrounding the collision over the Moray Firth.

“We need to know who decided what, when and why.”

The Typhoon aircraft arrived at RAF Lossiemouth earlier this month.

The jets are taking over responsibility for the UK’s air defence strategy from the ageing Tornados which are being phased-out of service between now and 2019-20.

A Typhoon belonging to the German military was involved in a mid-air collision with a Lear Jet a week ago.

The pilot managed to land safely at an airbase near the German town of Olsberg.

However, the other aircraft plummeted to the ground, killing both its occupants.

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