My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am today announcing a number of initiatives which will enhance our operational effectiveness.
The 1998 Strategic Defence Review identified the need to have robust strategic lift capability to ensure success on operations and we subsequently leased four Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Our experience of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has reinforced this judgment and last year we announced our intention to procure these aircraft at the end of their lease in 2008 and also to procure a fifth C-17 aircraft, which will enter service in May 2008. We now intend to purchase a sixth C-17. The aircraft, which can be delivered in 2008, will be a significant boost to the UK's strategic airlift capability and will provide greater robustness in our ability to transport troops and equipment quickly to wherever they are needed.
As part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, we are deploying on a rotational basis with our Canadian and Dutch allies a 2-Star (Divisional level) Headquarters in command of Regional Command (South) (RC(S)) based in Kandahar. We are also responsible for providing HQ Multi National Division (South East) in Basrah, Iraq. In order to meet these temporary demands, we have decided to augment the forces' command structure, and will temporarily establish an additional 2-Star deployable HQ. It will be based in York and will be known as HQ 6 Division, with a core of 55 service personnel drawn from existing structures. We will keep our planning assumption under review, but currently we assess that this HQ will be established until 2011.