BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has delivered on time and on budget two BAe 146-200QC (Quick Change) aircraft that have been converted from commercial to military configuration for use by the Royal Air Force.
After a period of familiarisation and operational trials, both aircraft have now been declared as Released To Service (RTS) by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence.
Known in RAF service as the BAe 146 C Mk.3, the two aircraft have been converted under a £15.5 million contract awarded to BAE Systems Regional Aircraft at Prestwick under an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to augment tactical aircraft numbers, particularly the Lockheed C130 Hercules force, during the upcoming extraction phase of Operation Herrick, the current Afghanistan campaign.
BAE Systems has been responsible for the design and integration of the equipment to be fitted to the aircraft, the sourcing of the equipment and management of the supply chain and overall management of the conversion programme. The actual conversion was carried out at the Hawker Beechcraft Services, Chester facility under sub-contract to BAE Systems.
Among the military equipments fitted are a Defensive Aids System to enable these UOR aircraft to be protected to appropriate levels, at least equivalent to other UK aircraft operating in Afghanistan. Also installed is a Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) system.
A number of other upgrades have also been installed including HF and UHF radio communications systems and a SATCOM satellite communications system. An armoured flight deck has been incorporated along with fuel tank inertion, air conditioning upgrades and a fire protection D-C system in the baggage bay.
The BAe 146 C Mk.3 is equipped with a large 131 inch wide and 76 inch high (3.33m x1.93m) rear upward-opening freight door giving a large aperture for the easy loading of pallets, containers and awkwardly-shaped cargo. The large cabin volume of the aircraft will allow up to 23,500 lbs (10.6 tonnes) of freight to be carried.
The cabin floor of the aircraft has a freight loading system which allows either palletised freight or passenger seating fixed to pallets to be rapidly installed. The passenger layout of 94 seats is to full commercial aircraft standards with interior trim, carpeting, toilet and galleys available front and rear and overhead passenger service units for each seat row and overhead luggage bins. There are also two large underfloor baggage holds.
In order to further broaden the versatility of this aircraft BAE Systems has engineered two further interior options for the RAF. It has sourced and received Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for new cabin baggage platforms and containers and cargo pallets from VRR of The Netherlands.
When installed on the aircraft this gives an alternative layout of 54 seats and a significant amount of carry-on baggage allowance in storage containers that can carry Bergens and other bags. The containers and their associated pallet are fork-liftable, even when loaded to their maximum weight, thus aiding rapid turnaround.
BAE Systems has also cleared a palletised freight layout for use on these aircraft, rather than the usual BAe 146QC freight igloos, to allow easier transhipment of loads between differing aircraft types in the RAF transport fleet.
Both aircraft are assigned to the RAF’s 32 (The Royal) Squadron which already operates two BAe 146 CC Mk 2 aircraft, primarily in the VIP transport role from RAF Northolt in north-west London.