Defence committee says lack of helicopters “undermines” operations

July 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

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The Commons Defence Select Committee has said overseas operations are being seriously undermined by the shortage of helicopters capable of being deployed.

The MPs said that the size of the fleet is an issue and the lack of helicopters is having adverse consequences for operations today and, in the longer term, will severely impede the ability of the UK Armed Forces to deploy.

“In our Report, we describe how the concept of ‘helicopter capability’ is built upon the four pillars of manning, equipment, training and support,” the committee said.

“We were told that, of these, it was the manning pillar that was under the most strain.

“The opportunity to train for some capabilities, in particular amphibious warfare, has suffered as a result of operational demands.

“The support structures underpinning helicopters seem actually to be something of a success story, with closer working between the MoD and industry paying dividends in terms of available flying hours—one of the key metrics by which the MoD judges performance in-theatre.”

James Arbuthnot, chairman of the Defence Committee, said:

“It seems to us that operational commanders in the field today are unable to undertake potentially valuable operations because of the lack of helicopters for transportation around the theatre of operations.

“We are also concerned that operational commanders find they have to use ground transport, when helicopter lift would be preferred, both for the outcome and for the protection of our forces.”

The Ministry of Defence currently plans to extend and sustain the lives of several ageing helicopter types in an attempt to minimise this capability deficit.

“Given the age of both Sea King and Puma and the poor survivability of the Puma, extending their lives at
considerable cost is not the best option, either operationally or in terms of the use of public money,” the committee said.

“We do not believe that these LEPs will provide adequate capability or value for the taxpayer.

“Only a procurement of new helicopters can meet the original objective of reducing the number of types of helicopter in service within the UK Armed Forces.”

The committee praised service personnel who serve the helicopter fleets for doing “a superb job, often under
difficult and dangerous circumstances.”

“We have been unfailingly impressed by all UK helicopter personnel whom we have met, for their professionalism, dedication and bravery.”

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