Freak Hailstorm in Kandahar – Operation Weatherman

As a result of a freak hailstorm in Kandahar on April 23rd 2013 a number of British aircraft were severely damaged.

A storm moved through southern Afghanistan April 23, causing damage to a number of Coalition aircraft at Kandahar Airfield. ISAF has already implemented actions to mitigate the effects of the storm and our forces continue to receive all necessary support

It was reported at the time that over 80 aircraft of various types were damaged.

Hail Kandahar

For the UK, the roll call included Chinook, Lynx and Sea King Helicopters, C130J’s, a HS125 from the communications fleet and one of the BAe 146 C3‘s, newly delivered the day before.

A 15th January Parliamentary Answer revealed some of the costs;

Hercules Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the cost of the repair contract given to Marshall Aviation for the damage the five C130J Hercules suffered in the hail storm in Kandahar on 23 April 2013. [182432]

Mr Dunne: Repairs to the five C130J Hercules aircraft are being undertaken via existing contractual arrangements. We estimate the total cost of repair may be up to £10 million. Some £5.9 million of repair work has already been completed by Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and all five aircraft are now back in service.

Military Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the total cost of Operation Weatherman; and which aircraft were involved. [182428]

Mr Dunne: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 November 2013, Official Report, column 432W.

Costs associated with the repair and recovery of aircraft to date total some £8.7 million. As some aircraft are still being assessed for repair, the total cost of Operation Weatherman is not yet known.

The repairs to the 5 damaged Hercules were carried out under the Hercules Integrated Operational Support contract with Lockheed Martin and Marshall Aerospace and Defence in Cambridge. 4 were repaired in the UK and 1 in theatre.

The BAE 146C3 was returned to the UK for repairs and from other reports, the HS125 was written off.

The figures for helicopters have yet to be released.

Read more about the Hercules repair task here, with a few screen grabs below

Aileron and Elevator
Aileron and Elevator
Composite Panels
Composite Panels

We should also note the role played by 71 Inspection and Repair Squadron, based at St Athan, click here to learn more about one of those lesser known capabilities, the kind of which are spread across all three services.

That was an expensive hailstorm, with writing the HS125 off, repairs to the C130 and BAE146, plus the yet to be confirmed repair costs to the Chinook, Sea King and Lynx types, would anyone bet against the total repair bill coming in at under £20m?

This also exposes perfectly, the issue of reducing numbers, in future, if 5 A400M Atlas were so damaged, that would be over a fifth of the entire fleet.

The same calculations could easily apply to frigates or tanks.

Numbers count.






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February 16, 2014 2:36 pm

Tanks damaged by hailstorms??

But hostile (or friendly) fire, yes.

February 16, 2014 2:41 pm

When it happened it was pretty much a fifth of the entire hercules fleet.

February 16, 2014 3:25 pm

Tanks can be damaged by nature via other means…

Glad I am no longer on hercs, that looks like it was a pain in the arse to work on!

John Hartley
John Hartley
February 16, 2014 5:12 pm

What do those inflatable , moveable hangars cost? Probably a darned sight cheaper than leaving expensive aircraft parked out in the open.

February 16, 2014 6:17 pm

@ Jhon Harrtley

You probs know it already, but the aircraft were out on the open because they were about to go on/or had just returned from operations.

Lack of space for hangars, cost, lack of foresight and laziness (for lack of better word… operational leniency??) also take part.

Makes me think, obviously the aircraft are the headline report… but other infrastructure and vehicles… a lot stored in the open… and then the aircraft of our allies… overall impact must have been pretty wide.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 16, 2014 10:03 pm

Are we sure these were not Taliban suicide hailstones…?

All joking aside, do any of our Kevin brethren or DH not have views on the risk of weather affecting what are extremely expensive assets? Mike’s point above about aircraft on the verge of flying or just recovering is fair enough, but that many planes all out and unprotected?

How do aircraft carrier operations work? The chance of running into a serious hailstorm at sea is not negligible. Presumably the local weather is communicated to the deck crew.

A good thing the hailstones were not mortars.

February 16, 2014 11:08 pm

There is regular occurrences of lightning / hail damage, bird damage to aircraft though more likely in flight damage. You need pretty big hangers to put a hercules in not to mention something like an a330, a400m or c17s as can be seen here
I’m not entirely sure there’s an easy answer to this one, sandstorms I believe can be equally challenging to cope with.

These sorts of damage are of particular concern for composite structures and as that’s what everyone seems to want on there aircraft it will be a growing problem going fwd and not just for military aircraft.

February 17, 2014 12:10 am

Even hangars can be hazardous places for aircraft on the odd occasion although the cause of these incidents at Eglin AFB was man, not nature:

11 Jan 2014 – Anyone that is “into” fire protection has seen the videos of the airplane hanger foam systems discharging. They are quite amazing to watch; however, now we have a fatality as a result of a discharge. Results are sketchy right now and investigators are trying to determine what caused the tragic incident that killed one man and injured three other people in King Hangar on Wednesday (8 Jan 2014). The worker, a 31-year-old contractor, died after a large amount of fire-fighting foam was released into the hangar. He had worked as a contractor at Eglin Air Force Base since 2006…

The victim and the three people who were injured were working for defense contractor that provides equipment and facilities support for the Department of Defense. He was working as a tools-and-parts attendant. The fire suppression system in the 90,000-square-foot maintenance hangar has 24 foam generators that hang from the ceiling. After the accident, the hangar was filled with foam. A similar incident in King Hangar in 2012 resulted in foam 10 to 12 feet deep. No one was hurt…

Two operational F-15s were in the hangar when the foam was released, as were a non-operational F-15, F-16 and A-10 used for educational purposes, according to Eglin. The base has not said whether the aircraft were damaged. The OSHA office never has investigated a death like Wednesday’s. “We may have to go to the manufacturer to find out how the system works,” he said. He said the investigation could take up to six months.

February 17, 2014 9:21 am

In fairness to those involved, this was meant to be a be a once in a generation type weather event. How much warning there was (or could of been) is a bit unclear.

Well done to all those involved with getting the a/c back to the UK and repaired.