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Ministers tackled on UK helicopter ‘shortfall’


July 13: In a UK House of Commons debate on defence, the Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, defended the Government’s provision of support helicopters in Afghanistan against fierce criticism from the opposition following a number of recent troop deaths.

Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox asked Mr Ainsworth “Why is it that in Helmand American forces have eight times as many helicopters for the number of personnel? How on earth did we get into such an unacceptable position? Who is to blame and how are we going to get out of this situation?” In response Mr Ainsworth said “We are part of a coalition; it would be nonsense for anybody to suggest that we ought to be down on the fact that our American allies are assisting in Helmand.” The Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Bill Rammell, added “No amount of helicopters would have saved the lives that were lost last week.”

The Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said “We have an enormous programme of procurement of new helicopters: there are the ex-Danish Merlins that are coming back from Iraq and being fitted up to theatre-entry standard for Afghanistan, as well as the prospect of the eight Mk 3 Chinooks, which will be available for operations again by the end of this year. There is also the re-engining of the Lynx helicopters and the prospect of Wildcat, which is being manufactured.”

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