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Helicopters

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of each helicopter type in the (a) Army Air Corps, (b) Royal Navy and (c) Royal Air Force is (i) in service and (ii) fit for purpose. (311896)

Operational capability is measured in terms of flying hours rather than the number of airframes available. All rotary wing operational requirements are currently being met.

“In-Service” has been taken to mean the effective fleet which covers all aircraft barring those which are redundant, declared surplus or awaiting disposal. Aircraft in the Forward Fleet are those aircraft that are available to Front Line Commands for Operational and training purposes. ‘Fit for purpose’ has been taken to mean which are ‘Available’. This is defined as those aircraft within the Forward Fleet that are considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date. The number of helicopters available varies from day to day, primarily due to routine maintenance requirements.

All aircraft in the Forward Fleet which are not Available are classified as Short-Term Unserviceable, because they may be undergoing first-line maintenance, other minor works or being prepared for transportation. Aircraft which are Short-Term Unserviceable can usually be made Available relatively quickly.

The Departmental Fleet comprises effective and non-effective aircraft. Non-effective aircraft are those aircraft still on the Military Register which are declared surplus and awaiting disposal and are no longer expected to be flown. Effective aircraft comprise those in the Depth Fleet and those in the Forward Fleet.

Aircraft in the Depth Fleet are those which are undergoing modification, depth maintenance and repair; in storage (including attrition aircraft); surplus aircraft awaiting classification as ‘ineffective’; or Trials aircraft.

The information requested is shown in the following table. The figures are averages for December 2009.

Helicopter type/mark

Departmental fleet (number of aircraft)

Effective fleet (number of aircraft)

Proportion of departmental fleet that is effective (percentage)

Forward fleet (number of aircraft)

Available (number of aircraft)

Proportion of forward fleet that is available (percentage)

Royal Navy

Lynx Mk3

28

28

100

20

13

65

Lynx Mk8

33

33

100

20

13

65

Merlin Mk1

42

42

100

22

10

45

Sea King Mk 4/6

42

42

100

27

18

67

Sea King Mk5

15

15

100

11

7

64

Sea King Mk7

13

13

100

10

7

70

Army

Apache

67

67

100

46

23

50

Gazelle

84

37

44

22

16

73

Lynx Mk 7/9

100

88

88

54

34

63

Bell 212

7

7

100

7

7

100

Royal Air Force

Chinook 2/2a

38

38

100

27

21

78

Merlin Mk 3/3a

28

28

100

19

7

37

Puma

34

34

100

24

12

50

Sea King Mk 3/3a

25

25

100

17

9

53