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Apache Helicopters: Crew

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to increase levels of the recruitment, training and retention of Apache helicopter crews. (227356)

[holding answer 16 October 2008]: The Army Air Corps is currently in a very strong position with regard to manning. It continues to attract high quality volunteers for flying training from across the Army, including sufficient candidates for Attack Helicopter training. There are no plans to initiate recruitment activities beyond those measures currently in place.

The training our Attack Helicopter (AH) crews receive is world class. It takes a full year to make AH pilots ready for deployment on combat operations. The training schedule includes a pre-deployment training exercise to Arizona to experience ‘hot and high’ conditions and culminates in a mission rehearsal exercise alongside the deploying formation. In the Afghan theatre, force levels and the capabilities required are regularly reviewed and AH training is constantly scrutinised to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Retention of AH crews is currently being examined, as part of work recently commissioned by the Joint Helicopter Command. We are, however, confident that the operational commitments of the AH force are sustainable. The Apache continues to provide a battle winning capability in Afghanistan and we have increased the flying hours available to commanders on the ground by 15 per cent. since October 2006. We aim to increase flying hours by a further 25 per cent. by early next year, by deploying additional helicopters, and we are building the logistic support required in terms of spare parts and personnel, particularly engineering manpower, to enable this.