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Get it right this time: Britain's forces can ill-afford another Labour helicopter fiasco

November 11, 2009 1:30 PM

Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East Greg Stone has warned that the Government must get it right this time, following reports that the Government is planning to panic-buy 30 additional Chinook heavy lift helicopters, paid for by scrapping long-term plans to buy 120 medium-lift helicopters.

The move follows an unhappy catalogue of errors by the Labour government in the commissioning of new helicopters for the military, including a four year delay in bringing in new Apache attack helicopters after a "buy first, think later" procurement decision which saw new machines delivered but with no instructors to train pilots to fly them for several years, and a disastrous procurement of Chinook helicopters without the operating software needed to fly them effectively. This mistake cost upwards of £500 million and has directly affected the effectiveness of forces in Afghanistan in terms of helicopter availability.

Greg Stone said "The armed forces and the British taxpayer need to be confident that the Government is going to get it right this time. Labour's record on ordering new military helicopters has been disastrous. It is welcome that the Government is now accepting that our forces in Afghanistan need more helicopters after months of denial, but this procurement must still be closely scrutinised.

"Important questions must be asked. Will this purchase leave us short of capacity in the long term by buying 30 now and cancelling 120 ordered for the future? We also need to know how quickly these machines can be brought into active service, following reports that the US manufacturers have a two-year waiting list caused by orders for the Pentagon."