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Hercules safety

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 12:38 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2007

Last night the Ten O'Clock News broadcast a report revealing that the Ministry of Defence has not completed urgent safety work on its fleet of Hercules aircraft - many of which are now flying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoA few viewers complained that by detailing the fault we were handing crucial information to the enemy. Here's one complaint:

I do not think that the programme should have included a report about how key safety measures have not been introduced on some military aircraft. This is just giving information away to the enemy. This sort of thing should remain secret.

hercules.jpgIt is true that Paul Wood's report did give very detailed information - however, in no way did this endanger the lives of our troops. An official report into the death of 10 British servicemen in Iraq made clear what the problem was - this was widely reported in many media outlets (including the Ten O'Clock News) at the time.

The point of last night's report was to show that despite the fact that changes to Hercules were considered urgent, the process of making the fleet safe has been incredibly slow - not least because the planes can't be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan because they are so vital to operations. Many of the senior military figures we spoke to in the preparation of the report believe it is the failure to make the planes safe, and not the reporting of the issue, that is endangering British troops.


  • 1.
  • At 03:24 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

On the one hand, one must remember that this is the same BBC that told the Argentineans that the Para’s were preparing a (surprise) attack on Goose Green. Sure nothing came of it that time, because apparently nobody down there was listening to the BBC; but one must always be aware of operational security. Perhaps a less detailed report would have been better, explaining that there is a problem and that it is quite fixable, but not drawing the kind of diagram one might expect to find in an enemy field manual.

On the other hand, I think that the defence reporting in general has been quite poor and non-specific. For example, why didn’t your reporter link up the fact that the military needs more air transport (RAF and Army run) in general, but can’t afford it while we pay a billion pounds a hill for Type 45’s for the Royal Navy, designed to hunt and sink Soviet submarines currently rusting in Murmansk?

If funding issues such as this were addressed then more Hercules could be afforded, which means that the RAF would be capable of taking a couple of the machines out of service for a period of a few weeks in order to perform maintenance and upgrades. As it is we spend billions on equipment we don’t need, or we overspend on stuff we do need like the Apache, and then people wonder why we don’t have enough of the basic stuff like transport aircraft.

Your defence reporting would be a lot more helpful if it could connect the dots for people and report on the military as a whole, rather than simply reporting about how there is heavy combat in Helmand. Great, we get the idea and your reporters have won all the awards there is to win for being shot at whilst not actually shooting back at the enemy. Now let’s report on defence spending and issues such as WHY there aren’t enough Hercules to take any out of circulation. Over £30 billion should buy you a military capable of deploying more than 10,000 troops at a time without being stretched to the limit.

  • 2.
  • At 01:08 PM on 15 Mar 2007,
  • Gabriel Hammond wrote:

The issue here is TIMING. Why did the report need to go out in such detail at a point when troop movements are highly predictable? It strikes me that the BBC's reports are potentially self-fulfilling prophecies.

The gunning down of a Hercules transport in the next few months will no doubt make a great news story. For sure the weakness in the Hercules transport could be partially to blame, but can the BBC give assurance that it too will assume some responsibility for any potential loss of life given that it broadcast this weakness?

I accept the irony in continuing the debate.....

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