Skip to main content

Military Aircraft: Helicopters

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timescale is within which the helicopter fund announced by the Prime Minister will deliver 11 helicopters. (289530)

The first helicopters will be deployed in Afghanistan before the end of 2009. On current plans, further deliveries will take place in 2010 and will complete by the end of 2013.

Additional contributions to the fund would increase the total.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the length of time it would take (a) to place an order for new Merlin helicopters, (b) for Agusta Westland to manufacture the new helicopters and (c) for the armed forces to bring the new helicopters into service after delivery. (292330)

We recently reviewed whether the acquisition of new medium helicopters could be advanced in lieu of the planned life-extension of the Puma helicopter. Several companies, including Agusta Westland provided outline cost and delivery information for their potential candidate aircraft in support of this review. For reasons of commercial confidentiality, we cannot disclose details of their proposals, including delivery estimates.

More generally, the timescales for procurement decisions are dependent on the urgency of the capability need, the value and complexity of the procurement, and the time needed to demonstrate that the solution meets the requirement and represents value for money. We have ‘fast track’ arrangements for those capabilities required urgently for operations. Once manufactured, it can take significant time to bring a helicopter to the standard required to meet any role, mission or theatre specific requirements, to train crews (and maintainers) accordingly, and to ensure that the aircraft meets the required specification and airworthiness standards, and can withstand the rigours of war.