MoD blasted for ‘preventable’ Nimrod deaths

By Alex Stevenson

The death of 14 service personnel in Afghanistan was the result of a “systemic breach of the military covenant”, an independent review has concluded.

Defence secretary Bob Ainsworth repeated previous apologies by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as he announced the findings of Charles Haddon-Cave’s review to the Commons.

“The report’s a tough read,” he said, pledging to “do everything in power to guard against anything like this happening again”.

Fourteen servicemen died when an RAF Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance aircraft crashed near the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on September 2nd 2006.

Today’s review blamed both the MoD and its industrial partners, at both organisational and individual levels, for the deaths. Mr Haddon-Cave made clear the loss was “preventable”.

Speaking in central London at the launch of his report, Mr Haddon-Cave said: “Airworthiness was a casualty of the process of cuts, change, dilution and distraction commenced by the 1998 strategic defence review.

“The failures were both a failure of leadership and collective failures to keep safety and airworthiness at the top of the agenda despite the torrent of change in the period 1998 to 2006.”

Mr Ainsworth said the report’s subtitle – A Failure of Leadership, Culture and Priorities” was a “stark judgment”.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the report was a “formidable indictment” which was “genuinely shocking”. He said it should act as a “wake-up call for all of us” that “cutting corners costs lives”.

Mr Ainsworth responded: “I don’t retreat from many of the comments made by the honourable gentleman.”

The review placed significant blame on a shift in emphasis from airworthiness to budget pressures forced upon RAF personnel by the government.

“Core procurement practices have created bow waves of deferred financial problems,” Mr Haddon-Cave added.

He said the Nimrod MR2 which crashed in Afghanistan would probably no longer have been flying had “continuous delays and cost overruns” not blighted the replacement programme of the MR2 fleet.

Fl Lts Steven Johnson, Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, Gareth Rodney Nicholas, Allan James Squires and Steven Swarbrick, FS’ Gary Wayne Andrews, Stephen Beattie, Gerard Martin Bell and Adrian Davies, Sgts Benjamin James Knight, John Joseph Langton and Gary Paul Quilliam were the 12 RAF personnel who died.

The Marine who died was Joseph David Windall and the army fatality was Lance Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts of the Parachute Regiment.