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‘Morale poor’ among UK crews at RAF Akrotiri

Akrotiri air base

RAIDS against Islamic State are being conducted from RAF Akrotiri “with broken jets and tired and fed-up people”, the BBC reported on Saturday.

In a letter to BBC’s Newsnight, a British serviceman said the base was being neglected, morale was poor and ground crews had taken to eating humanitarian rations meant for Iraqis.

The BBC said it had also been told that only 16 of 102 RAF Tornado jets still meet full combat standards.

An RAF spokesman dismissed many of the claims as “factually inaccurate”.

But a British Ministry of Defence source confirmed to the BBC an incident in which ground crew had been given rations had happened.

The BBC said it knew the identity of the letter writer but that the organisation was protecting his anonymity.

The writer detailed how there is no hospital at RAF Akrotiri, even though there are daily operations involving live ammunition.

And he told the BBC that the placing of services with contractors meant that Cypriot cleaners at the base were being charged to the UK taxpayer at three times the annual cost of an airman’s salary.

An RAF spokesman responded: “In our opinion this letter is factually inaccurate. In layman’s terms, it is completely full of holes.”

A source at the British MoD said the facilities, as well as conditions of service, at Akrotiri are comparable with all RAF stations around the world.

The BBC described how during a recent visit by an air vice marshal, one sergeant from II Squadron complained about the quality of the food available to crews working overnight on Tornado jets.

Contracts at the base provide only for hot meals during the day, with snacks laid on at night.

The air vice marshal, on hearing the complaints, went to a pallet of rations intended for air dropping to refugees in northern Iraq.

He was “so disgusted by the ‘cheese sandwiches’ offered as meals to the night shift, he went and broke into a pallet of aid and handed it out as it was better than what we were feeding our airmen”, said the serviceman’s letter.

The MoD source  told the BBC “crews were offered a small number of excess [Department for International Development] rations [a vegetarian curry] as a one-off gesture during a testing deployment”, and argued there was no question of the crews needing the humanitarian rations in order to be “adequately fed”.

Shortly after operations began against Islamic State in September, the detachment of Tornado strike aircraft was increased from six to eight, the BBC reported.

But it said only 16 of the RAF’s 102 Tornado GR4s meet “diamond fleet” standard, which is the aircraft fitted with all of the equipment necessary for combat.

Many of the remainder are now mothballed.

Half of these top specification jets are now in Akrotiri, but the BBC said that due to their age and long use, the battle to keep them airworthy requires long hours of work by ground crews, particularly on the engines.

On many days, just two or three of the Tornadoes are available for missions over Iraq.

The MoD source insisted: “The Tornado GR4 continues to offer good serviceability and is meeting required tasking.”

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