The Ministry of Defence will increase the military helicopter fleet to the tune of 22 new Chinook helicopters, defence secretary Bob Ainsworth announced.
The first ten new Chinooks will roll off the production line in 2012 — increasinge fleet from 48 to 70 airframes — and is set to be completed in 2013. The announcement is part of a new Future Helicopter Strategy expected to deliver a 40% increase in the number of lift helicopters available for use on operations in extreme conditions, such as those in Afghanistan.
Announcing the Strategy, Ainsworth said: “Our forces on the frontline in Afghanistan repeatedly tell me that Chinook are indispensable on operations. I am therefore delighted to announce plans to deliver more of these robust, effective and proven battle-winning helicopters.
“Helicopter capability has already doubled in the last three years and this future strategy builds on this, ensuring that our Armed Forces have the very best resources at their disposal.”
Industry sentiment, however, differed. Ian Godden, Chairman of A|D|S, said: “It is a sad day for this country when the helicopters requested so long ago are finally announced late in the day almost as an after thought. More helicopters for our troops in Afghanistan are of course welcome — but as ever, we have to question at what cost will this have to the armed force’s future capability?
“So often in the past we have seen programmes accelerated to provide vital services at the detriment to other programmes causing greater costs and loss of services, and there is a very real fear that this will result in the same. Today’s announcement is like painting over the damp patches in your house, giving a superficial fix to a far deeper problem that will only re-emerge later and in a far worse condition.
“If anything, today’s statement highlights the urgent need for a Strategic Defence Review and refreshed Defence Industrial Strategy which makes future decisions about Britain’s foreign policy and role in the world.”