Two-thirds of key helicopters for Afghanistan unavailable

A news release from the party pings into my inbox:

Almost 2/3rd of the RAF’s Merlin helicopters, which the Government has hailed as a key part of increasing capacity and ‘ideally suited’ to Afghanistan, are incapable of carrying out their planned missions, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

Answers to Parliamentary Questions have shown that of the 19 RAF Merlins in the ‘Forward Fleet’ (those aircraft which frontline commands are meant to be able to use), just seven – or 37% – are classed as ‘available’ (defined as ‘considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date’).

The answers also showed that only half (23 out of 46) of the Army’s Apache attack helicopters which were meant to be available to frontline commands actually were available.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson, Willie Rennie said:

“These alarming figures undermine the Government’s claim to have hugely increased helicopter capacity in Afghanistan.

“Bob Ainsworth has praised the capability and importance of the Merlin helicopters sent to Afghanistan. But now we find that two thirds of those helicopters which are supposed to be available to front line commanders simply are not.

“Labour has short-changed our troops for too long. They should focus on properly supporting our brave men and women on the front line instead of spinning on the number of helicopters available. We need a fair deal for our troops.”

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • Cllr Patrick Smith 31st Jan '10 - 3:42pm

    The deployment of the pledged by the Government most number of helicopters would and will help maximise the troop manoeuvres in Afghanistan, especially where the Merlin helicopter is known to be suitable for the terrain.

    The Government should come clean and inform our servicemen/woman that it is unable to meet helicopter capability giving the reasons why so many of them are not being deployed in the combat and transit zones.

  • John Martin 12th Mar '10 - 7:38pm

    The only way many of us will continue to vote for the LibDems, which we passionately want to do,is if the party comes out with a strong statement that it will immediately begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, recognising that the UK is there for the wrong reasons, shedding too much blood on both sides and only achieving the making of more enemies for the country.

    The country thinks this (in addition to the fact that we can’t afford it!), and it needs a major party to voice its feelings.


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