UK reveals full extent of Afghan hail damage in storm on 23 April 2013
A freak hailstorm that struck southern Afghanistan in 2013 cost the UK government nearly GBP13 million (USD20 million) in damaged aircraft, IHS Jane's has learned.
The figure, which was received on 13 January via a freedom of information (FoI) request, represents the sum total of repair work that was carried out to 12 aircraft that were damaged to varying degrees in the hailstorm that hit Kandahar Airfield on 23 April 2013.
According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), five Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft sustained Category 3 and 4 damage, which was repaired to the tune of GBP9.1 million (Category 1 damage is classed as the aircraft being repairable within first-line capabilities, with Category 5 being the aircraft considered beyond economic repair); one BAe (Hawker) 125, and one BAe 146 liaison/transport aircraft sustained GBP1.736 million in Category 3 and Category 4 damage respectively (plus GBP1.37 million in contracted maintenance work); and three Boeing Chinook, one AgustaWestland Lynx AH.9A, and one Westland Sea King HC.4 helicopter received GBP386,500 in damage.
However, as noted by the MoD, while most of the aircraft were repaired and returned to service, the BAe 125 liaison jet was later assessed to be beyond economic repair and scrapped. In addition, the Sea King has been subsequently retired from service. No Panavia Tornado GR.4 strike aircraft or General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles that were also located at Kandahar Airfield were affected in the incident.
While the MoD declined to comment on non-UK assets that may have been damaged, it has previously been reported that eight Afghan Air Force 208B Grand Caravan utility aircraft were damaged to the tune of USD8.4 million, and that three Afghan civilians were killed. An undisclosed number of US Air Force aircraft were also said to have been damaged, although the service has declined to comment.
The hailstorm at Kandahar Airfield arguably caused more damage to coalition aircraft in the space of a few minutes than the Taliban managed in 13 years of warfare (notwithstanding the attack on Camp Bastion in which seven US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed), and is a salutary reminder of the power of nature and the importance of safeguarding against unexpected weather occurrences.