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UK denies shortage of choppers in Iraq, Afghanistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, May 16, IRNA
UK Helicopters-Iraq-Afghanistan
Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram is unwilling to specify how many helicopters are available in Iraq and Afghanistan but has denied that there is a shortage to protect the separate deployments of ground troops.

"UK forces have sufficient helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan for the task for which they have deployed," Ingram said, but added that the number is "kept under constant review."
Last month the all-party Defence Committee expressed concern about the air support for Britain's increased deployment to Helmand in the south of Afghanistan and in particular to the small number of helicopters that are being given extensive roles.

But when asked in a written parliamentary question published Tuesday, how many helicopters UK forces have in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ingram declined to say.

"To provide the total number of air assets in each theater would likely prejudice the security of British forces," he insisted.

On May 2, Defence Minister in the House of Lords, Lord Drayson listed the total number of helicopters in Iraq as "two Chinooks, eight Sea Kings, seven Merlins, five Pumas and six Lynx."
But when questioned further about their availability, he admitted that "serviceability is running at about 78 percent of aircraft on operations and at 59 percent of total aircraft in the fleet, including those at home and on operations."
Back in January, the then Defense Secretary John Reid announced that nine Chinooks, eight Apache and four Lynx would be involved as part in Britain's additional deployment in Afghanistan that is due to be completed in July.

Last year, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee warned of an "alarming" shortage of battlefield helicopters, saying the gap between the number needed and those available to the Defence Ministry was between 20 percent and 38 percent.

Although it noted that the government intended to spend Pnds 3 billion (Dlrs 5.4 bn) over the next 10 years to enhance and replace the capability provided by the helicopter fleet, it said the shortage was exacerbated by eight Chinooks that remained grounded.

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