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Armed Forces: Helicopters

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the decision to upgrade the Puma helicopter has taken the time that it has. [HL775]

The demonstration and manufacture phase contract for the Puma life extension programme was placed with Eurocopter UK on 18 September this year. Prior to this a full range of options were evaluated to determine an affordable technical solution that could be delivered in time to meet future capability requirements and provide value for money. Feasibility studies, risk reduction and commercial negotiations were undertaken to mature the programme to a point where the contract could be placed with confidence in its ability to deliver and its price.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the time taken to decide on further purchases of Chinook helicopters was due to needing to negotiate places on the Boeing Chinook production line; and when they expect the production of the new Chinooks to begin. [HL776]

The Secretary of State for Defence announced on 15 December a new strategy to deliver helicopter capability, including the acquisition of 22 new Chinook helicopters. Negotiations with Boeing are ongoing, and will inform investment decisions during 2010, to ensure the earliest possible deliveries. Subject to this, we expect delivery of 10 new-build Chinooks during the course of 2012 and 2013.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Royal Air Force will be equipped with Chinook and Puma helicopters for urban and tasking special forces. [HL777]

Royal Air Force support helicopters are used in a variety of different roles and environments. We will continue to provide this support into the future using appropriate equipment, making any changes in line with the needs of the operation. It is a long-standing policy of the Ministry of Defence not to comment on UK special forces issues.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Royal Navy will be equipped with an all-Merlin helicopter force to allow it to return to a littoral role. [HL778]

I refer the noble Lord to the Statement made on 15 December 2009 (Official Report, cols. WS 221-WS 222) by the Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable Bob Ainsworth, announcing a new future rotary wing strategy which will see the Ministry of Defence deliver increased levels of helicopter capability. In addition to the procurement of at least 22 Chinook helicopters, the new strategy will see the retirement of the whole Sea King fleet by early 2016, and the modification of the Merlin Mk3/3a fleet to allow it to contribute to helicopter lift operations on both battlefield and ship-borne littoral operations, in the way that Sea King Mk4 does today. The new strategy assumes post-2016 that all maritime helicopter requirements will be met from the Merlin and Wildcat fleets.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Army will be equipped with suitable helicopters for its conflict operations. [HL779]

The Army is currently equipped with suitable helicopters for its conflict operations. These include Apache, for delivery of the find and attack function, and Lynx Mk7 and Mk9, which operate primarily in a battlefield reconnaissance role. We are upgrading Lynx Mk9 with powerful new engines to allow them to operate in Afghanistan all-year round.

Beyond this, in addition to the helicopter capabilities provided by the Army Air Corps, the Army is supported by RAF Chinook, Merlin and the Navy's Sea King Mk4 helicopters which deliver vital lift capacity in the battlefield domain. Over the next 10 years, the Ministry of Defence intends to invest some £6 billion in its helicopter capability, including procurement of the new Lynx Wildcat, which we confirmed in December last year.