In response to today’s report by the House of Commons Defence Committee report into helicopter capability, Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth said:
“We are doing all that we can to get more helicopters to our forces in Afghanistan. We have almost doubled helicopter hours, together with increasing the number of helicopters for operations. The deployment of the Merlins to Afghanistan will mean a further 25% rise in helicopter hours from the end of the year. We are investing £6 billion over the next decade in our helicopter capability. But I will make sure that we will keep looking to see what more we can possibly do.
“However it is not just about buying helicopters, as the report acknowledges. It is also about investing in the training of pilots and ground crews and increasing the availability of spare parts to maintain them. We have made great strides in both to ensure we can improve the helicopter availability for our forces both quickly and sustainably”
Following a review, the MOD decided that it is not feasible to advance the purchase of the Future Medium Helicopter and forego the Puma Life Extension Programme, without placing unacceptable risk on operational commitments. Our principal responsibility is to our forces on operations. The planned life-extension of Puma helicopters will give them a major overhaul, with new engines, cockpit and avionics worth more than £300M, to provide a step change in its capability and deliver safety improvements. We are continuing to assess how we can best continue to deliver the capability currently provided by Sea King Mark 4.
The MoD will now consider in detail the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations on all aspects of helicopter capability, and publish our full response in due course.