BAe 146s for the RAF?

A day after BAE Systems announced the BAe 146M, and perhaps not coincidentally, The Times reports that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering using BAe 146s to help meet a shortfall in transport capacity resulting from delays in the Airbus A400M program. The RAF has ordered 25 A400Ms, but technical difficulties have pushed back deliveries until 2012 or 2013 at the earliest. In the meantime, the ageing Lockheed C-130 Hercules fleet has been under heavy strain due to the need to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the 146 freighter’s 11-12.5 tonne capacity is only about half the 20-tonne capacity of a C-130, the difference in price more than makes up for it: New Lockheed Martin C-130Js would cost about US$60-90 million apiece, whereas used BAe 146s are available for US$2-3 million in passenger configuration and about US$5 million as freighters.

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