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RAF chiefs spend £7.4 million sending pilots to train abroad because of faulty jets spontaneously exploding


  • Less than half of the Service’s Hawk T2 fleet is currently available
  • MPs criticised RAF chiefs for making a mess of the training programme 

Cash-strapped RAF chiefs are burning millions of pounds sending pilots abroad for training due to a jet shortage caused by engine fires.

Less than half of the Service’s Hawk T2 fleet is currently available because the aircraft’s engines spontaneously combust due to an unsolved technical fault.

Consequently top brass have been forced to spend £2 million per pilot to send them to Italy and the United States to complete their training.

The additional cost takes the total sum to fully train a RAF fast jet pilot to around £7.4 million.

According to an internal investigation the problem has been caused by a blade in the Rolls Royce engine wearing out and catching fire. The part is understood to be provided by a French subcontractor.

Less than half of the Service¿s Hawk T2 fleet (pictured) is currently available because the aircraft¿s engines spontaneously combust due to an unsolved technical fault

Less than half of the Service’s Hawk T2 fleet (pictured) is currently available because the aircraft’s engines spontaneously combust due to an unsolved technical fault

British Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps said overseas pilot training was routine and would continue to train sufficient numbers of pilots for the front line

British Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps said overseas pilot training was routine and would continue to train sufficient numbers of pilots for the front line

Yesterday, MPs criticised RAF chiefs for making a mess of the training programme. In recent years aircraft have blown up on the runway and crashed over the countryside due to technical difficulties.

The training scheme also became mired in controversy when documents emerged indicating that white male pilots were being held back to let lesser qualified pilots from minority backgrounds take their place on courses.

John Spellar, a member of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee said the Hawk programme had been ‘appallingly mismanaged by a stubborn RAF that will not get a grip of it’.

He added the service should have invested in the next generation of training aircraft rather than allow pilots to be stuck in the training pipeline for years.

Former Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who was director of operations at the Ministry of Defence, said the RAF should have ensured there was a sufficient number of extra engines in case of such eventualities. 

He added that the pilot training programme was already ‘fragile’ because of an ‘insufficient number of fast-jet pilots’.

The Hawk T2s are supposed to fly for 4,000 hours over their lifespan but due to the engine fault they are deemed unsafe after 1,700 hours. 

This has led to a shortage of training aircraft, which in turned has lengthened the course for each pilot.

Although there are 28 Hawk T2 jets in the fleet only around eight were available each day throughout 2022-2023 for trainees to fly.

At least 15 RAF pilots will be trained overseas over the next three years on the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training programme in the USA. While 12 pilots will be tutored at the International Flight Training School (IFTS) in Italy.

The Ministry of Defence said: ‘Overseas pilot training is routine and we continue to train sufficient numbers of pilots for the front line.

‘As part of the mitigation measures to manage the impact of Hawk T2 engine availability, a small additional number of UK pilots are being trained abroad.’



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