Information has reached me that some progress may have been achieved about the C-130 Defensive Aids Suite, and specifically about the foam in the fuel tanks that might have saved the crew of XV-179 on election day in Iraq. Apparently the K fleet (super-E in US parlance, CMk1 in UK officialese) are getting their foam as we blog, and the Js may do in the future. I wonder if it had anything to do with the delightful story that Geoff Hoon didn't know the plane that took him to Kabul wasn't foamed-up, armoured or DAS-equipped...until they told him! (Damn, I'd have given an eye to see his tory little face go blank with terror.)
Moving swiftly on, can anyone explain why, as the 16th Air Assault Brigade's build up in Helmand continues and the first casualties are reported, the RAF Harrier squadron is being recalled from Kandahar? The Paras will be relying for most of their firepower on six Apaches (being deployed for the very first time by British forces, and the first really complex aircraft to be used by the Army Air Corps - what is the serviceability rate going to be like?), and whatever the USAF can spare when the call comes. If they have learned to distinguish a British soldier from a goat, rock, suspected possible Taliban insurgent or pizza since last time out, that is.
I think it's probably because the II(AC) Squadron deployment to Kandahar was at least in part seen as a substitute for sending troops last year as the deployment slipped steadily to the right. Now, the logic (or what passes for logic) runs, the troops are going and so the planes can be pulled. Which is bizarre. We're short of soldiers, but we've got essentially a whole air force (less a slack handful of F3s in the Falklands and GR4s in support of Iraq) patrolling the hostile skies of Lincolnshire and waiting for the chance to take "premature voluntary release" and join BA..