Operations in Afghanistan Could Be Seriously Hampered By Lack of Helicopters, Crews
(Source: UK Conservative Party; issued Jan. 28, 2008)
MoD has admitted that only one-third to one-half of its helicopters are “fit for purpose,” or “capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date.” (UK MoD photo)
Operations in Afghanistan could be seriously hampered by a lack of helicopters and crew according to new MoD figures.

In parliamentary answers the MoD has revealed:
-- A shortage of 140 helicopter crews
-- Only 25 of 67 Apaches are fit for purpose
-- Only 17 of 40 Chinooks are fit for purpose
-- Only 20 of the 60 new Merlin helicopters actually work

Commenting, Shadow Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox said:

“The current shortage of helicopters and crew is sure to have an impact on our capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. When I visited troops in Helmand Province, in November, it became clear there was a shortage of Apaches and Chinooks to support troops on the ground. Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, presided over a £1.4bn cut in the helicopter budget back in 2004 and we are now seeing the consequences of that decision.” (ends)

MoD Answers Questions on Military Helicopters
(Source: UK Conservative Party; issued Jan. 28, 2008)
Below are the answers provided by the UK Ministry of Defence to two questions tabled in Parliament by Liam Fox, the Conservative party’s Shadow Defence Secretary.

1. Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) required and (b) actual strength of helicopter crews is in each service. [173726]

-- [Under-Secretary of State for Defence]Derek Twigg: The current requirement and strength for helicopter crew personnel as at 17 December 2007, broken down by service:

2. Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what percentage of each helicopter type in the (a) Army Air Corps, (b) Royal Navy and (c) RAF are (i) in service and (ii) fit for purpose. [177536]

-- [Armed Forces Minister] Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The numbers and types of helicopters utilised by the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force which are in the forward fleet and considered fit for purpose are detailed in the following table. Forward fleet aircraft are those that are available to the front line command for operational and training purposes (i.e. those not in depth maintenance). Aircraft defined as fit for purpose are those considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date.

21 Jan 2008 : Column 1595W
The figures shown are the average for the month of November 2007. The number of helicopters fit for purpose will vary from day to day due, primarily, to routine maintenance requirements. Operational capability is measured in terms of flying hours rather than the number of airframes available.
These figures do not include the six RAF Merlin helicopters recently acquired from Denmark or the eight RAF Chinook Mark 3 helicopters that are being converted to a battlefield support role.

Calculations including total fleet

"Only a Third" of Army Helicopters Fit for Duty
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Jan 25, 2008)
A report in the Daily Telegraph states that only a third of Army helicopters are fit for front line duty. We always plan for a number of helicopters to be going through maintenance to make sure they are fit to fly.

We have recently boosted helicopter availability by 33% and we plan more increases this year for Chinook, Apache, and upgrades to the Sea King helicopters to improve their performance on operations.


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