RAF BAE 146 C3

Sometimes when you write posts you get lucky and cover a story just before it gets covered by everyone else. Equally, the other stories published by everyone else touch on an aspect previously covered on Think Defence. The recent post on UK personnel arriving in Mali as part of security mission there was one of those occasions.

A quick post on the Quick Change RAF BAE 146 C3 it is then.

The press release from the MoD and BAE announced the Release to Service of the two former TNT BAE 146 regional transport aircraft to 32 (The Royal) Squadron, RAF, after being modified by Hawker Beechcraft Services in Broughton under contract from BAE Systems in Prestwick under a £15.5 million deal.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”https://www.gov.uk/government/news/philip-dunne-visits-new-aircraft-at-raf-northolt”]

The contract was announced in January 2012

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/raf-to-fly-second-hand-bae-146s-in-afghanistan-366796/”]

The Flight Global article described how only five of the aircraft specified in the contract notice were available, two of them with TNT Airways, seen then as the most likely supplier; they had finished leasing them to the French Axis Airways.

TNT were indeed the chosen seller, OO-TAZ became ZE707 and OO-TAY, ZE708.

OO-TAY

TNT Airways oo-taz BAe 146-200 (QC)

The 146 is actually an impressive aircraft and still in widespread service, including with the RAF.

BAE has continually tried to interest buyers in more military oriented versions equipped with inflight refuelling probes and rear ramps with the latest effort called the 146M.

BAE 146M
BAE 146M

An earlier version even progressed to a demonstrator stage, later sold to a civilian operator in Australia.

BAE 146 Small Tactical Airlifter
BAE 146 Small Tactical Airlifter
BAE 146-100 Small Tactical Airlifter concept
BAE 146-100 Small Tactical Airlifter concept
BAE 146-100 Small Tactical Airlifter concept
BAE 146-100 Small Tactical Airlifter concept

Click here for another image

The BAE 146-200QC aircraft is the QC variant, or Quick Change (or Quiet Conversion depending on who you talk to)

This a great video that highlights the QC flexibility

This means they had a cargo door and cargo floor system in addition to windows which means they can be used in either the passenger or cargo role, providing exactly the kind of flexibility needed.

BAe-146-200QT-Cargo
BAe-146-200QT-Cargo

The 3.33m x1.93m cargo door allows easy loading of pallets and containers.

BAE 146 QT
BAE 146 QT
British Aerospace 146QT
British Aerospace 146QT

Pallets can be either for cargo or palletised seating which means the entire cargo floor can be used in a mixed configuration, either 94 seats with galley and toilets, 6 pallets or a mix of the two to a maximum cargo payload of just over 10 tonnes.

The C3’s will also be able to operate with a newly designed palletised Bergen container from VRR in the Netherlands. I wrote about VRR in an old post on pallets and containers, click here and here.

These forklift-able palletised cargo containers will allow the 54 personnel seated on palletised seating to self-load their Bergens and other baggage, it being carried on the same deck.

From VRR

The total system consists of 2 cargo pallets (108” x 88”) and one transition pallet (108”x 61.72”) with 2 baggage containers on both the cargo pallets and the transition pallet.

The cargo pallet (88” x 108”) is a mechanically fastened type. The strength is achieved through an aluminium stringer-based core to which both top and bottom sheets are attached with rivets. This construction will ensure enough rigidity to facilitate the pallet being lifted with a forklift when loaded to the load limit.

The transition pallet (108”x 61.72”) fills the gap between the last seat pallet and the first Modified Cargo Pallet with Baggage Stowage Provisions. In this pallet several inserts are placed to facilitate easy connection to the stowage container. Its forward edge interfaces with the aft edge of the existing seat pallets. The aft edge of this pallet is positioned at the aft end of cargo compartment D.

Photo luminescent emergency escape path marking strips are placed along the pallet, outlining the edges of the aisle. The pallets’ surface is covered with anti-skid tape on the aisle, to prevent a slip hazard.

To avoid steps and gaps between the cargo pallets a small ramp is placed on the pallet. Such a ramp is also placed on the aft side of the pallet.

The baggage containers are placed on both the cargo pallets and the transition pallet (two per pallet). The aluminium constructed stowages are placed on the LH and RH side of the pallet, creating an aisle in the middle. The boxes – equipped with D rings in the interior – are mounted on the pallet.

VRR Aviation Cargo Pallet for RAF 146 C3 Air Transport aircraft
VRR Aviation Cargo Pallet for RAF 146 C3 Air Transport aircraft
VRR Aviation Cargo Pallet for RAF 146 C3 Air Transport aircraft
VRR Aviation Cargo Pallet for RAF 146 C3 Air Transport aircraft
BAE 146 C3 VRR
BAE 146 C3 VRR

Neat eh

In addition to a new paint job the aircraft have been modified to include appropriate military communications equipment (HF, UHF and SATCOM), Raytheon Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF), an armoured flight deck, fuel tank inerting, upgrades to the air conditioning and significantly, a full Defensive Aids System or DAS to Theatre Entry Specification.

The DAS fit comprises a Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) turret under the nose and tail and countermeasure flare launchers similar, one would assume, to those found on the other pair of 146’s in service with the RAF, the CC2’s

The Deployed Operating Base in Bahrain will be the engineering hub for the 146 C Mk3’s with one aircraft based at Bahrain and Kandahar respectively.

The BAE 146 is a rugged and flexible aircraft, quiet with a good short field performance and low noise level designed for small regional airports and decent range for the class.

With credit to the Aviation Anorak, this is my favourite image of the 146, in Libya.

An Air Libya BAe-146-300 aircraft takes off from Rhebat air strip, a stretch of mountain highway, near the Nafusa Mountains, western Libya
An Air Libya BAe-146-300 aircraft takes off from Rhebat air strip, a stretch of mountain highway, near the Nafusa Mountains, western Libya

They have been obtained under the Urgent Operational Requirement process so whether they remain in service post Afghanistan is open to question, it would be nice to think they would be retained.

The finished article

RAF 146 C3 Mali
RAF 146 C3 Mali
RAF 146 C3 Mali
RAF 146 C3 Mali
RAF 146 C3 Mali
RAF 146 C3 Mali

RAF 146 C3 Mali 01

What’s not to like?

The is a sensible and low cost purchase of an aircraft already in service and one that will provide a useful boost in the Afghanistan drawdown period.

I do hope they remain in service, the mixed cargo/passenger flexibility afforded by the palletised configuration stands in stark contrast to the passenger only offering of the several billion pounds worth of FSTA Voyagers.

16 Comments
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Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
April 21, 2013 3:51 am

Considering post sale of your C-130J’s you will be left with only relatively large aircraft in your transport fleet (C-17’s, A400’s and A330’s) a few smaller aircraft should be a useful addition operating cost wise, even if they don’t offer a full tactical capability.

Only question how long will the 146 remain viable in terms of support considering production ended years ago?
Plainly the 146’s were available because they are starting? to be replaced in commercial service. Which usually happens when the support costs are rising.

ChrisM
ChrisM
April 21, 2013 10:08 am

“The aircraft will supplement the hard-working C-130 Hercules fleet in providing safe (protected) movement between bases for troops in theatre”

That explains the full DAS, I assume this is mainly shuttling between Bastion and Kandahar?

In the future I could imagine these two being repainted into civil type colours and being rather useful for Africa etc especially for Hereford types. You could fly a group of people and some pallets of gear, or a small delivery of weapons, into a small airport much more comfortably and much more subtley than in a Hercules……

Ps Love that airshow photo of the token ramp into the side door – even a land rover might struggle with the transition at the top, that Rover 800 would certainly beach!

Simon257
Simon257
April 21, 2013 3:51 pm

Hmmm.. I wonder if it could be made into an MPA?

The Nimrod, after all was just a redesigned Comet, wasn’t it.

mike
mike
April 21, 2013 4:03 pm

Simon257

AFM had a diagram of a ‘146 in a MPA fit… would be interesting, issue is with that and expanding the numbers of these is that its been out of production for some time.

Simon257
Simon257
April 21, 2013 5:14 pm

@ Mike & TD
Just think. Replace the engines with an up to date design. Put the Thales Searchwater 2000MR search radar and other related surveillance equipment on board. Hard points under the wings. Put a Bomb Bay and extra fuel tanks in the luggage hold area. An AAR probe. You get the picture.

Is there a market for a mid size MPA? Something bigger than a C-295 MPA and smaller than a P-8? Plenty of countries operate the P-3 and will sooner or later need a replacement. If Lockheed are trying to push the Sea Herc, as a P-3 replacment. Maybe it’s worth BAE having a good long look at a 146 MPA. Just a thought!

RW
RW
April 21, 2013 5:31 pm

TD

As you know I’ve always supported the use of the 146

I’d like to see it transferred to the Army Air Corp where I think it would be better used appreciated and developed,

mike
mike
April 21, 2013 6:12 pm

Simon257

Indeed, sounds like a good idea – but well, just seems a bit of an outside choice for a cash strapped MoD. I would certainly like to see that and more of these though. But they cant do para-drops, the paras who were on the trials didn’t leave good feedback :x

RW

How so? Wouldn’t there be a stronger case for the Army to have, for example a twin otter or C-23 Sherpa? I cant see the Army seeing a 146 as anything but a drain on the Lynx/Apache funds.

Also brings the question, what of the AAC Islander Defenders? Not much reported on their tasking, and will there be a replacement? Perhaps the Shadow R1?

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
April 22, 2013 1:56 am

TD, if the RAF wanted to keep your 4 146’s in service to the air frames potential, a replacement engine may be a real possibility as the engine (ALF502) was only used on two aircraft (the 146 and the Challenger 600 biz jet).

Ace Rimmer
April 22, 2013 2:25 pm

I feel there’s some growth/additional life in the 146 to at least warrant a revisit. Although the cammed up 146 in the pics above, the one with the car been loaded through a side door, reminds of a black and white photo from WW2 which pictured a Jeep being loaded through the side door of a Dakota.

Nice to see moved on leaps and bounds since then!?

Viable alternative? : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-72

Peter Elliott
April 22, 2013 3:27 pm

AN-74 is the MPA variant of AN-72. In the 1980s versions were proposed for Soviet Carrier AEWC and COD – one assumes in a STOBAR operating mode.

The big advantage over the BAe 146 is that it has a propper tail ramp. And the interesting positioning of the engines over the wings improves the Short Take Off characteristics.

Wouldn’t mind betting it could get off the front of QEC’s ramp carrying a fair load. The quoted payload is 7,500 KG, which is more than the C2/E2 lifts for the USN.

Whether AN-74 could land safely on a QEC without arresting wires or clearing the whole deck is more questionable. But if you replaced the flight systems with the same VAAC technology as is going into F35B then maybe it would?

Not cheap to develop. As well as the control systems you would need to fold the wings and tail. And Russia is not an allied power. So you may as well just take it as a template and design a new Western plane from scratch. And we can’t afford it money for speculative stuff right now. But an intriguing idea nonetheless.

wf
wf
April 22, 2013 3:52 pm

We could always ask Boeing to bring out the YC-14 demonstrator :-)

The QSRA managed carrier landings…

Chris.B
Chris.B
April 23, 2013 11:00 pm

Another video on the 146, including a look inside at the seats and the stowage bins.

jima
jima
April 24, 2013 5:25 pm

737 freighters variant do exist

Dan
Dan
April 24, 2013 8:12 pm

I think a fleet of 30 in total 15 to supplement the a400m fleet and the rest kitted out with a cheap and simple fit to cover mpa asr roles on till we can afford a more complex aircraft for the full mpa asw asr roles

Jed
Jed
April 29, 2013 1:01 am

OK, I will bite……

How is an MPA version going to carry:

1. Torpedoes

2. Anti-ship missile

What if there is no capability in the design for under wing hard points ? Who said “fit a bomb bay” – mmmmm’ yes that would be cheap and easy no doubt !

No, it might just make an Maritime Surveillance platform, but not an ASW oriented MPA…. :-(