Cost cuts and dilution of the airworthiness regime in the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been upheld as the causes behind a 2006 Royal Air Force Nimrod aircraft crash.

In September 2006, a Nimrod MR2 spy plane exploded in mid-air in Afghanistan, shortly after undergoing air-to-air refuelling, killing 14 RAF personnel.

Aviation lawyer and report author Charles Haddon-Cave QC said that financial pressures and cuts, following the 1998 strategic defence review, drove a cascade of multifarious organisational changes which led to a dilution of the airworthiness regime and culture within the MoD.

The report has identified the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ, brought in as an independent adviser, all as culpable for their parts in a safety review that missed serious design flaws, according to the Guardian.

According to the report, the design flaws introduced at three stages contributed to the crash.

The design flaws included the 1969 original fitting of the cross-feed duct, the 1979 addition of the supplementary cooling pact duct and the 1989 permanent air-to-air refuelling modification.

Accepting the findings of the report UK Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth apologised for the government’s failure.

In March 2009, the Nimrods were grounded from overseas operations for replacement of their hot air ducts.

Presently, safety modifications have been completed on the whole fleet, however, there are no immediate plans to send them back to Afghanistan.

In 2010, the MR2 will be gradually replaced by a new version of the Nimrod, the MRA4.