An investigation into a military aircraft collision has revealed a missing collision warning system could have prevented the tragedy

Missing alert system responsible for jet crash

A missing onboard collision warning system on two RAF aircraft has been determined as one of the main causes of a deadly crash in Scotland in July 2012. 

The accident, which took place over the Moray Firth, killing three people involved two Tornado GR4s military planes.

Investigators from the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) concluded the cause of the accident was "a lack of recognition of converging flight paths" which saw both aircraft in the same airspace at the same time.

In its 278-page report, published today by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), poor weather conditions and "shortcomings" of the risk management process were amongst some of the other 16 factors listed.

The investigators believe that, although the lack of a CWS was not the main cause of the crash, had the system been installed, the incident may have been avoided.

Commenting on the report's findings, MAA director general Air Marshal Richard Garwood said: "Tragically, there were many opportunities to enable de-confliction but, for a number of reasons, including chance, this did not happen.

"As with many accidents, bad luck has to be part of the explanation, particularly in the closing stages when they were belly up to each other; a few feet difference in altitude of one of the aircraft would have created a near miss rather than this tragic accident.

"Unfortunately, the final safety barrier which would have generated awareness of their close proximity did not exist as the Tornado GR4 is not fitted with a CWS."

The CWS for the Tornado GR4 has been discussed since twenty years ago. However, a series of delays and budget-motivated decision resulted in it not being fitted into the aircraft prior to the accident.

According to an MoD spokesman, the development of the CWS for the Tornado GR4 has been completed since the tragedy and the system is currently under testing with implementation expected at the end of 2014.

"While accidents like this are very rare, this demonstrates that military flying can never be without risk,” said the MoD spokesman.

"The RAF is already implementing the lessons learnt from this tragic accident and now uses a flight planning aid to highlight potential aircraft conflicts prior to flight.

SNP defence spokesman, Angus Robertson, whose constituency includes RAF Lossiemouth, criticised the delays in the procurement and development of the CWS.

"It is scandalous that the MoD committed to a Tornado collision warning system in 1998, bizarrely cancelled it 12 years later, than changed its mind - but it was all far too late to potentially avert the fatal crash in 2012. This makes the tragic event of July 2012 even more distressing. The report highlights the delays of installing the system were financially driven. This is utterly unacceptable and a breach of the duty of care we rightly expect the MoD to provide and our service personnel to have.

"It finds the collision warning system would have prevented this tragic accident - a system which has been tested and recommended for the Tornado for over 20 years. It catalogues unacceptable delays, poor decision making and communication. There is now an overwhelming public interest case for a fatal accident inquiry."

"It is imperative that all lessons are learnt from the Tornado collision. I agree that the position of the MoD not to install these systems on current and future fast jets is unsuitable. The recommendation to install a system now is obviously welcome, but far, far too late and the recommendation for the Secretary of State to hold a review into the procurement is not enough. It is clear that there needs to be a fatal accident inquiry."

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