Ministry of Defence
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MoD responds to NAO report on Chinook MK3 helicopters

MoD responds to NAO report on Chinook MK3 helicopters

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE News Release (103/2008) issued by The Government News Network on 4 June 2008

Defence Minister Baroness Ann Taylor has today commented on a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) into the MoD's procurement of eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters for the RAF.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Baroness Taylor said:

"The Chinook is the most capable support helicopter in Afghanistan. Based on operational need, the reversion project will allow delivery of more Chinooks to theatre in the shortest time-frame. It is one of several steps being taken to increase helicopter lift capability for operations including the acquisition of new state of the art blades for Sea Kings. The total amount of flying time for all helicopters, including Chinooks, has increased by a third since March 2007."

In early 2007, the operational imperative to provide additional helicopters to support operations was recognised and the decision was taken quickly to convert the Chinook Mk3 aircraft. The project remains on track in terms of time and budget and is just part of a package of measures that we are implementing to improve our helicopter lift capability on operations.

The NAO report acknowledges that:

* The RAF's 40 Chinooks are the MoD's most capable support helicopters especially in the demanding hot and high conditions of Afghanistan.
* The MoD's decision to convert eight Mk3s to the current Mk2 standard means that these aircraft will be added to the fleet two years earlier than the Fix to Field programme would have allowed.
* The decision will result in a largely common cockpit across the Chinook fleet with improved operational flexibility and lower support costs.
* MoD is confident that these aircraft will be delivered by 2009-10.
* In 2007, the MoD took the necessary decisions rapidly, based on pressing operational need.
* MoD has equipped some Mk2 Chinooks to fly in more demanding operations in very low-light conditions, and has plans to upgrade the entire Chinook fleet with an enhanced cockpit to meet operational needs.

Notes to Editors

1. On 30 March 2007, the Secretary of State for Defence announced that 14 additional helicopters (acquisition of 6 Danish Merlin and conversion of 8 Chinook Mk3s) would be made available for military operations. These additional platforms represent a 25% increase in the UK's battlefield Merlin fleet and a 20% increase in the Chinook fleet.

2. The decision on Chinook was taken as it offers the strongest range/ payload performance in the demanding hot and high environmental conditions in Afghanistan. Converting the Mk3 aircraft to a Mk2 cockpit standard was the fastest and lowest risk way to field these aircraft.

3. A Written Ministerial Statement on "Helicopters on Operations" was laid before the House on 20 May 2008, detailing the steps taken to improve the provision of battlefield helicopter capability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

4. Boeing is Prime Contractor for the conversion of the Chinook Mk3 and has worked closely with the MoD on this programme. The contract was signed on 14 Dec 07, at a value of $115M.

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