It is understood that while the aircraft crashed last August on a special forces mission, it has only now been disclosed.

It has emerged that the Hercules was returning after picking up UK and US troops at a desert airstrip in Syria. This is understood to be the first loss of an aircraft for the United Kingdom as part of Operation Shader.

Operation Shader is the operational code name given to the British actions in the ongoing military intervention against Islamic State. The operation began in Iraq on the 26th of September 2014, following a formal request for assistance by the Iraqi government.

Almost every type of aircraft in Royal Air Force service has been involved in the operation with Hercules aircraft dropping aid and also operating with special forces which are understood to be heavily active in the country.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson declined to comment claiming that any confirmation either way was likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness, or security of the armed forces.

This was first reported by The Sun and then Janes.

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I do wish the MoD had a policy of declassifying accounts of special forces missions maybe some 10/20 years after they happened. Most would likely make for fascinating reading.

David Steeper

Why not just wait for Andy McNab or Chris Ryans next book ? For my part I’d sooner stick needles in my eyeballs but hey !


Due to tank chasing lawyers, i think we should wait until all persons involved have passed away. Just look at what is being done to those who served so bravely in Northern Ireland, disgraceful.


Doesn’t take my accidents to knock holes in such small fleets

Paul T

Just had a quick search,looks like 3 have been lost in Iraq so far plus 2 were lost in Afghanistan,yes it will impact on the fleet but as Atlas deliveries are still ongoing there should be no major loss of capability.


Thank you Paul – do we have any in storage? The reason I ask is that due to the nature of special forces operations, one would imagine it only a matter of time before aircraft are lost. Our special forces – and our American cousins too – have my deepest admiration and respect. Very, very brave men indeed!


Well, the Hercules fleet has been falling in numbers for the past few years, and are being replaced by the Atlas fleet – so there’s probably a few kicking around. Fourteen Hercules airframes (the long variant) are due to stay in service, so it will be interesting to see if the airframe lost is one of those. We’ve lost one herc as part of Operation Shader, and have had four losses in Iraq and Afghanistan in the previous decade – as well as one lost on landing at Brize Norton. These numbers show that accidents and incidents can and will… Read more »


Thanks Lusty – I hope you are right regarding the 3 Atlas airframes but I have a sinking feeling ‘the powers at be’ will make the RAF make do with what they have remaining…. sad, I know but I have lost all faith in our politicians to do the right thing and properly fund our Armed Forces instead of paying mere lip service.

If I hear ‘we have the largest defence budget in Europe’ one more time….. ugggh!

Albert Sympathiser

There are no ‘spare’ Hercules. Those in storage at St. Athan are K models and the RAF only trains on the J now. The Atlas also is nowhere near ready to take on the work the J does so any further attrition will significantly impact Ops. I’d be interested to see where the insurance goes….

Paul T

Lusty – edit to add that the Hercules that this article refers too was indeed a C-130-J-30 (or C.MK4 in RAF service ) which is the long variant.


@Paul T Those were mostly C130K’s…

Also, Atlas can barely be described as capable, nevermind relying on it to replace the Herc.


Oh, want for an edit button, forgot to add that in my post above.

Sceptical Richard

Oops! Not good. May now have to ramp up Atlas capability more rapidly than before. RAF has taken an extremely leasurely (and cautious) pace on this, not just because the aircraft has had issues (accepted) but also because they can afford to do so. Only A400M operator with the extreme luxury of a fleet of 130Js, C17s and Voyagers to fall back on while they cross every T and dot every I on Atlas before giving it the appropriate RTS. The plane has already demonstrated every logistic capability it needs to. On the tactical front it has already proven to… Read more »


“On the tactical front it has already proven to be more capable than the J in hot and high and short, soft field operations”

What a load of nonsense, mate. Do you work for Airbus Military or something? ?

Sceptical Richard

No not any more but I was their CEO in U.K. for five years and responsible for introducing A400M into RAF service. And it’s not me saying the bit about short, soft, hot, high. It’s the RAF T&E pilots themselves. It has greater ground clearance, lighter footprint and much more installed power. Weight for weight it simply outperforms the J in every parameter. It has already demonstrated repeated passes at CBR 4 with greater weights than the J can handle, although it hasn’t received the formal clearance for that yet. Can’t exactly recall now but I believe they only received… Read more »


How is their not a requirement for massed Airborne drops? Someone apparently forgot to tell the US, Russia, France, and China about this insight. Major operations by Airborne since WWII include: Korea War: Twice by the US 187th RCT. The Suez: Britain and France Vietnam: Operations Mouette and Junction City successful. Operation Castor failed due to Navarre’s arrogance. Congo: Operation Dragon Rouge by Belgian paratroopers in 1964. Indo-Pakistani Wars: 1965 Pakistani operation on three cities resulted in failure due to lack of preparation. 1971 India successfully conducted the Tangaril Drop in Bangladesh cutting off the Pakistani line of retreat. East… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

Elliot, thanks for that. So I was right that no UK mass jumps since Suez? I obviously cannot go into details because I may be breaking confidentiality rules. Suffice to say I don’t make these statements up. I only repeat what I’ve heard from operators. And you’re absolutely right that operating tactics should not have to suffer major modifications due to inadequacy of new equipment. That is why Airbus and the RAF (and the FAF and others) will continue to work on this issue until it is totally solved. My point was that progressive (or limited) Release to Service can… Read more »