A SURVEILLANCE balloon placed next to an Afghan football pitch where an RAF helicopter crashed was a hazard but did not restrict flying, a senior commander has told an inquest.

Flight Lieutenants Alan Scott and Geraint Roberts, of RAF Benson, died after their Puma Mk 2 helicopter collided with the balloon’s tether and crashed near Nato’s Resolute Support mission headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on October 11, 2015.

The pair, who lived in Benson and Reading respectively, were among five people killed in the crash.

Their inquests at Oxford Coroner's Court began yesterday and continued today.

Family members of the two airmen heard evidence in court about the safety concerns raised with the balloon, known as a persistent threat detection system (PTDS).

Air Commodore David Cooper, who was deputy commander of Nato Air Command in Afghanistan at the time, said the decision was made that the PTDS was necessary for intelligence reasons.

He said its location was determined after a number of risk assessments by groups including the mission’s rotary wing, and it was placed near the football pitch rather than the Canadian embassy.

Air Cdre Cooper added: “It was clearly a hazard that would introduce a risk.

“In doing their own risk assessments, they came back to us and said ‘we are relatively comfortable that risk is understood and mitigated’.

“At that point I believed they had done their own due diligence.”

The inquest also heard the football pitch that was being used as a busy landing zone for helicopters was not under Nato control and occasionally had people playing sport on it.

The inquest continues tomorrow.