UK Politics

Liberal Democratic Party: 2/3 of key helicopters for Afghanistan unavailable says Rennie

Press Release   •   Feb 01, 2010 11:12 GMT

Almost 2/3 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.”