BAE Systems has handed over two upgraded BAe 146-200 Quick Change (QC) aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF).
The delivery stems from a £15.5m urgent operational requirement (UOR) contract, awarded in June 2012 by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), to convert the aircraft from commercial to new C3 military operating standard, as reported by Flightglobal.
The aircraft are scheduled to undergo flight testing, to support performance validation of newly integrated electronic warfare systems at the Donna Nook weapons range in Lincolnshire, UK.
The aircraft has been installed with defensive aids system equipment, including two directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) turrets under the tail and one below the forward fuselage, along with flare dispensers to address the UK's intra-theatre lift requirements for ongoing missions in Afghanistan.
Actual conversion work was carried out by Hawker Beechcraft Services, at its Broughton facility in north Wales, UK.
The second-hand aircraft were acquired from Belgium-based TNT Airways to enable safe troop and freight transportation in theatre, as well as reduce strain on the RAF's in-theatre use of the Lockheed Martin C-130J/K aircraft, during the forthcoming extraction phase of Operation Herrick, in Afghanistan.
The aircraft are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2013, and will be operated by No. 32 (The Royal Squadron), which already has two BAe 146-100 air planes in its service.
Built by British Aerospace, the BAe 146-200QC, also known as 146M/Avro RJM, is a regional airliner equipped with a 3.33mx1.93m freight loading system, which enables the rapid installation of either palletised freight or passengers.
Originally capable of carrying up to 96 passengers in civil applications, the aircraft is expected to transport fewer soldiers, due to constraints of operational altitudes and temperatures, as well as increased average weights of armed and body-armoured military personnel.
Image: A BAe 146-200 Quick Change aircraft during flight. Photo courtesy of BAE Systems.