SCOTLAND: TORNADO ACCIDENTS RAF REPLY
The RAF has responded to Celtic League concerns expressed following accidents involving a number of Tornado aircraft during military exercises over Scotland in February (see link below):
The full text of the RAF reply is set out below together with the statistics supplied (unfortunately the statistics cannot be set out in the tabulated form of the original correspondence).
“Business Secretariat 14
Room 2E03, Spitfire Block
Royal Air Force
Buckinghamshire HP14 4UE
16 March 2011
Dear Mr Moffat
Thank you for your letter of 15 February 2011 asking for information on Tornado aircraft. I am replying on behalf of Headquarters Air Command which has responsibility for these matters. I will address your queries in turn.
There have been 9 Tornado aircraft accidents (all variants) over the last ten years (01 March 2001 — 01 March 2011). The official definition of an aircraft accident is an occurrence resulting in a death or major injury, or where the aircraft suffers Category 4 damage (damage that is not repairable on site
because special facilities or equipment are needed), or is assessed as Category 5 (aircraft is missing or beyond economic repair). This figure therefore represents accidents which are defined as above. However this does not include the Tornado incident at RAF Lossiemouth on 10 Feb 11 as the damage to this
aircraft has not yet been fully assessed.
Date Accident Location
27 Jan 2011 Crashed into the sea. A Service Inquiry is ongoing. Off coast of
20 Jul 2009 Burnt out following aborted takeoff. Afghanistan
02 Jul 2009 Crashed during low level sortie Argyll. Scotland
14 Nov 2007 Rear seat fell out. Norfolk
24 Oct 2006 Crashed following multiple bird strikes. The Wash
14 Oct 2005 Crashed following loss of control. North Sea
22 Jul 2004 Crashed following loss of control. North Sea
23 Apr 2003 Friendly fire. Middle East
17 May 2002 Crashed after a fire which caused the controls to seize. Humber Estuary
It is not possible to advise you of the number of incidents involving Tornado aircraft over the last ten years because `incidents’ cover such a wide range of possibilities, e.g. occurrences which disclose a potential flight safety hazard or where an aircraft sustains Category 1 to 3 repairable damage. If you would
like to define which incidents you mean, either those above or any others, then we would be happy to consider your request. If you are referring to airproxes* you may wish to know that all completed airprox reports are published on the UKAirprox Board website at
There is nothing to lead us to believe that there is a need to ground the Tornado fleet following the two recent incidents in Scotland this year. Safety is of paramount importance to us and the first consideration following any accident is whether or not to ground the fleet. If there were reasons for us to
stop these aircraft from flying then we would have done so. Furthermore no Tornado aircraft have been withdrawn from RAF service as a result of safety or airworthiness issues.
The Tornado GR1 was upgraded to GR4 in order to benefit from more modern battle-winning technology. This is typical in the life of many long term equipment programmes and ensured the aircraft remained operationally effective in the light of the then anticipated future threat environments. Compared to the
GR1, the GR4 had a number of capability upgrades including improved cockpit displays, new avionics and weapons systems and updated computer software.
Since entering service with the Royal Air force, the Tornado has proven to be an extremely reliable and safe aircraft; this is reflected in the attrition rate. It should be noted that aircraft numbers have reduced since 1981 as squadrons have been disbanded. The loss rate has dropped commensurately to 2 aircraft per
year for GR1 to a steady state of 0.7 aircraft per year for GR4. The attrition rate for Tornado F3 variant has remained at a steady state of 0.3 aircraft per myear. Unfortunately, I am not able to provide, the attrition rates in percentage terms as these figures are not readily available.
I hope this information is helpful.
Sue Hurst –
RAF Bus Sec 14
*An Airprox is a situation in which, in the opinion of a pilot or a controller, the distance between aircraft as well as their relative positions and speed have been such that the safety of the aircraft involved was or may have been compromised.”
The Celtic League are grateful to the RAF for the swift and comprehensive response however we will be responding to them in relation to paragraph 3 of the letter seeking detail of Category 4 & 5 incidents which are omitted.
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights
human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.
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