Troops face helicopter shortage


The armed forces face an "alarming" shortage of battlefield helicopters, a Commons committee has warned.
The Public Accounts Committee said the gap between the number of helicopters needed and those available to the MoD is between 20% and 38%.

The shortage was exacerbated by the MoD's £259m purchase of eight Chinook helicopters, which remain grounded.

The report also said shortfalls in other protection equipment could increase risks for service people.

The MPs branded the Chinook affair "one of the worst examples of equipment procurement that the committee has seen."

The committee also warned of shortfalls in helicopter protection equipment, nuclear, biological and chemical protection for aircrew, and communications capacity.
On one hand we see bravery being awarded and what frontline soldiers do for their fellow soldiers......

And then we have the incompetence that is the MoD :roll:
They still cannot get the new Special Forces Chinooks to work properly. The US I believe have even offered to take them back and provide the lastest SF verision as a replacement!

The madness is that as the summer heat builds up again in Iraq, the one helicopter that can fly in even the hottest part of the day, we are short of!

Boeing defends UK Chinooks in software debacle
By Jason Neely, European Aerospace & Airlines Correspondent

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Thursday it was working with British authorities to iron out a dispute over upgraded Chinook helicopters worth 259 million pounds ($478.5 million) found unfit for flying in cloud.

A government audit a day earlier which found it would cost 127 million pounds and take three years to fix the eight helicopters has renewed controversy over the programme.

"Boeing stands behind the Chinook," a company spokesman said. "We continue to work with the ministry to satisfactorily resolve these issues."

The Chinook Mk3 met all requirements in the original 1995 contract as well as those in a revised 1997 deal, he said.

The National Audit Office report also noted the helicopters met requirements, finding blame instead in UK-specific software modifications.

It said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) assumed that because Dutch Chinooks were using similar avionics, its contract for Chinooks could sidestep time-consuming and expensive software documentation and analysis.

"This assumption proved unfounded," it said, noting the helicopters at present are cleared only to fly over 500 feet in weather clear of cloud and where the pilot can use landmarks instead of relying on the flight displays for navigation.

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Bach, already under pressure for budget overruns, has appeared on BBC television and elsewhere defending his ministry's policies as he weighs options that include the costly software repair or selling the helicopters to a third party or back to Boeing.

"That's the difficult decision the minister has to make," a ministry spokewoman said.
Procurement is a total joke, but we must remember that this particular project is a legacy delivery. The telltale line 'the Chinook Mk3 met all requirements in the original 1995 contract as well as those in a revised 1997 deal' confirms this. Requirements do not always equal purpose.

So-called 'smart procurement' should solve many problems that we currently hear about in the press. This (supposedly) involves bringing industry and customer closer together, so that problems are minimised. Of course this doesn't work either, as the MoD doesn't possess the necessary expertise in contract law; and industry exists for one purpose - to make money.

We also need to remember that the MoD is a very small global player in defence sales terms. The current Bowman project (which is even more utterly appalling than this Chinook feck up) will only cost £2.4bn - the equivalent US project is worth £85bn. Therefore, industry does not need the UK military business paycheque, and can therefore resource elsewhere.

Doesn't get away from the fact that this is yet another example of woeful procurement, with decisions on military utility being sacrificed for political gain. And if the PAC think that this is 'one of the worst examples of equipment procurement that the committee has seen', I suggest they haven't seen anything yet!

Anyone for NEC? :D
A 'Super Belvedere' is an interesting concept adastra. Shame it didn't make it, along with the supersonic Harrier and HS 681.
Much as Boeing have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently they're not actually to blame for this one. The DPA ordered the helos to a spec they wrote and Boeing delivered exactly what they were asked for.

When the helos got to Boscombe and the chaps there tried to generate a Military Aircraft Release (MAR) to UK standards it was found that the spec they'd been bought to was not sufficient to allow this to happen. Boeing will help - you just have to pay them for whatever they do, which is after all a not unreasonable thing for a business to require.

The real culprits here are the DPA who bought something that could never go into service under the current regs.
Much as I would like to blame the government for this huge mess, the true seat of blame lies somewhere in the corridors of MOD Whitehall. I very much doubt that those who are ultimately responsible will ever be bought to account. Indeed, I would not be greatly surprised to discover they have been promoted and are supervising future expensive mistakes.

And until that culture is changed and individuals made accountable for the projects they run, this WILL happen again. I understand part of the problem lies in the fact that senior personnel in these teams change on a fairly regular basis. This can only make the difficult process of procurement even trickier and introduce huge potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication. And while that sort of madness is the norm, it is not a matter of 'if' it happens again, but 'when'.
Dear friend!

Don't worry. If American helicopters can't fly then there are other ones on the market.

"The third day of the Farnborough-2004 air show was marked by scandal."

"The row broke out over a Mi-24 attack helicopter" which was exhibited at Britain's BAE Systems pavilion even though the Moscow helicopter plant had not authorized the UK to refit the aircraft, it says.

But according to Russia's Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, there was more to the matter than that.

It says the Russian state arms trading company Rosoboroneksport had signed agreements with French and British companies to carry out joint projects on options for upgrading Mi helicopters.
I suppose that the problem was known long ago. So practical Brits are prepared.

So instead of being able to book them and sit around waiting for JHC to say they can't fly because the Officers Mess teapot was cold at breakfast we now can't book them because they aren't there.

Think of all the soldiering we're going to have to do instead of sitting on the LZ.

Damn. :roll:
Doesn't help when the Navy throw their's away rather than check the fuel level! Or does it know mean that Broon's taking so much in fuel duty that it's cheaper to throw it away rather than fill her up? :wink:
I think the govenment ideal solution to the helicopter crisis is to reduce the amount of forces we have rather than procure new helicopters.

This is just plain stupid, Helicopters are essential on the modern battlefield,

Am glad i got out, or i would end up going on Ops in my shreddies by the time the govenment had finished with there cuts and lack of fore sight!
What about Apache?
Great if you are a huge super power and can have a heli for every occasion but ARRSE for a small Army like the Brits who needs one tool to do many jobs (A bit like a 2Lt). Blackhawk would do the Apache job and have the utility of the Puma and cost about one tenth of the price of Apache.
Is this news? I for one remember practising helicopter drills in the FRG using Bedfords and then TRM as surrogate Pumas...of course underslung loads were a bit difficult to simulate!

Talking of sitting on the LZ waiting for non-available assets, I recall a 3 Cdo BAS Gazelle fluttering down through the impenetrable mists of OTA to inform us that the RAF Pumas were not coming, as it was unsuitable weather for flying...


Book Reviewer
Hah! This is all part of the cunning "Revenge of the Stabs" coming soon to your local multiplex. Tired of being treated as an army of Droids by the evil Jabberin' Buff, the TA infiltrate the Whitehall Death Star and ensure that no-one ever gets their shiny new helicopters. :twisted:

After all, for the last many years the only Helicopters the TA has seen have been green and black, with large wheels at the corners, and a drop-down tailgate.

At least they alwys turn up, though.

The MOD could opt for more versatile Helos, just have a look at the link above.. a Blackhawk with most of the firepower of an apache... .

Plus it can lift troops if necessary!!

Problably works in the heat as well! unlike most of the current British fleet!! especially during the summer Iraq heat!

Worth remembering that the Apache had problems in Iraq

AH-64 Apache Team Defends Helicopter's Performance In Iraq
By Jefferson Morris
May 1, 2003
Responding to criticism of the performance of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter during the war in Iraq, a Boeing Apache official and a retired former Apache commander said the aircraft's record proves it is survivable, although it's too early to draw definitive lessons learned from the conflict.
Critics have questioned the aircraft's survivability, pointing to several incidents in which low-flying Apaches have taken damage from ground troops. In one such case, a force of more than 30 AH-64D Apache Longbows had to withdraw after taking heavy damage to rotors and airframes in a late March clash with Republican Guard troops south of Baghdad. One aircraft went down, although it and its crew were recovered later.
"Having 30 aircraft sustain the fire that they did, and bring 29 crews back - that's the definition of survivability," a retired senior Army officer who commanded an Apache unit during Desert Storm told Aerospace Daily.
Apache's work fine - it's just that when you fly at low level over thousands of Iraqi's all firing wildly into the air they tend to pick up a few holes. No helo could withstand that.
tomahawk6 said:
I always felt safer walking than flying. The only good thing about flying is
when you land safely.
I always felt safer flying with the junglies than with the crab-fat. I used to eel up to the HLS at BL in a begging posture, armed with my green lid and daggers, sporting them like a frequent flyer card, in order to evade going on the "only living Chinook in theatre - 70 million miles and still flying". I did once get a lift from the Dutch BO-105 helo but that was only so I could have "proximity sex" with what was apparently a glamour model doing her TA service as a pee-low...ruff ruff.

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