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Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) RAF, (b) Army Air Corps and (c) Royal Navy helicopters were sold to (i) the private sector and (ii) foreign governments during the period September 2005 to September 2006. (97286)

[holding answer 1 November 2006]: The MOD’s Disposal Services Agency sold six helicopters between September 2005 and September 2006. Three Sea Kings, which were not in an airworthy condition, were sold via Agusta Westland, under a Commercial Marketing Agreement, to Australia for spares recovery; one Army Sioux was sold privately; and one Wessex and one Sea King were sold as scrap.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether negotiations have been concluded with Boeing for the work to be carried out on the eight Chinook Mark 3 helicopters at Boscombe Down to make them certifiable for military flights; and if he will make a statement. (98220)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of (a) the overall military helicopter fleet and (b) the helicopter fleet deployed in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan are considered (A) fit for service and (B) battleworthy, broken down by helicopter type. (98556)

The MOD does not use the terms fit for service and battleworthy in describing helicopters. We use the term “fit for purpose”, which means those that are available, reliable, airworthy and capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date.

Helicopter type

Fit for purpose (Percentage)







Gazelle AH1


Lynx MK 3 and 8


Lynx MK 7 and 9


Merlin MK 1


Merlin MK 3




Sea King MK 3/3A


Sea King MK4/6C


Sea King MK 5


Sea King MK 7


The percentages shown in the table indicate the proportion of the helicopter fleet available to front-line commands, which are considered “fit for purpose”. These numbers will vary; the figures shown are the average for the period from 1 June to 30 September 2006.

All UK helicopters deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are considered fit for purpose, but not all will be available for operational flying each day due to routine maintenance requirements. However, these factors are taken into consideration, and sufficient helicopters are provided to meet current operational requirements. We continue to review these operational requirements and adjust as necessary.