Not to be arrogant, but i've been arguing for a long time that a possible, good and cheap solution for the RAF requirement in tactical airlift would be the BAe 146. Reading the page of the 2020 RAF on this blog will confirm it.
I'm not so surprised, consequently, to hear that the MOD is looking at acquiring, as Urgent Operational Requirement, a couple of BAe 146 Quick Change cargo planes.
The BAe 146 is an excellent solution: two 146-100-series aircraft are already used by the RAF for VIP transport duties with the 32 (The Royal) Sqn at RAF Northolt, near London. These planes are also used in support of Afghanistan requirements from time to time. In addition, already in 2009 the MOD had looked into the BAe 146 when a six months agreement was signed by the MOD with Titan Airways: the MOD leased the plane for meering support troop transport requirements in the Middle East.
And around 2 years ago, BAE made its proposal to convert second-hand BAe 146 airplanes for military use, creating the "Quick Change" variant. For now, there are only five aircraft available on the market in the configuration identified by the MoD, with freight operator TNT having previously sought a buyer for its two examples, which are now likely to end up taken by the MOD.
Once acquired, the used transports will receive modifications including the addition of defensive aids system equipment to protect them from any attack by insurgents armed with surface-to-air missiles. It is likely that they will be operated by 32 Squadron, the only RAF formation with crews ready for the type. The DE&S request specifically mentions "augment its existing fleet of BAe 146-100 aircraft (70 - 80 seats class)". The cost of the acquisition could be around 6 million pounds.
The UOR is made necessary by the delay in the A400 and the reduced number of C130K available, with the whole fleet of ths type destined to vanish within this year.
The BAe 146-200 Quick Change airplane comes with a large Freight Door in the back [76” (3.33 m) Wide; 131”(1.93 m) High] and offers a typical gross payload of 11.500 kg. This payload is made up by:
- Six 108” X 88” pallets plus one half pallet; or
- Four 125” X 96” pallets; or
- Nine LD3 containers; or
- Palletized seats for personnel
Good data on the BAe 146 family is available in this document from BAE.
The conversion of the over 200 used, civilian BAe 146 airplanes in "BAe 146M Quick Change" is offered, with a cost as little as 5 USD millions per conversion. Performances for the type are very good overall, and cost effective: BAE says the 146-300QT has a range of over 1600 nautical miles with a 11/12 tons payload. An extended range fit could take the range out to over 2200 nautical miles with a 12 tone payload. Excellent tactical airlift capability, at a price that no competitor can match.
Since the RAF once planned to operate C130J AND A400, while now it is planned that, by 2022, the A400 will be alone, a small fleet of cheap, tactical cargo planes could be a very good idea.