Cuts mean Chinooks will miss action in Afghanistan
By Helston People | Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 09:59
New military helicopters ordered to help serve troops in Afghanistan will never be deployed there as a result of the Government’s financial black hole, it is claimed.
Sources have suggested that 12 new RAF Chinook helicopters will be delayed until after Britain completes its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2015.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had expected the first Chinooks to be delivered in 2012-13, allowing them to be used in Afghanistan.
While the order has not been cancelled, their delivery has been delayed to help fill the department’s £1 billion budget gap.
A source said: “The contract will be placed, but we will re-profile it. The delivery dates will be backloaded.”
Before last year’s strategic defence and security review (SDSR), David Cameron singled out sparing the Chinooks from the axe as evidence that the Government was targeting spending to the front line.
The Prime Minister said he would “give everything to our troops in Afghanistan that they need”.
He said: “Yes, there are difficult decisions, but we will have some amazingly capable defence forces with some of the latest equipment in the world, including more Chinook helicopters.”
A dozen Chinooks were promised by the Government in the autumn defence review.
But Peter Luff, the defence procurement minister, has said the contract with Boeing is “subject to negotiation”. They were first promised by Labour in 2009.
It is understood that the SDSR announced in December did not go far enough and more savings must be found.
Ministers are also under pressure to look again at the review in light of the uprisings in Libya and elsewhere.
It is estimated that the Treasury will give the MoD an extra £100 million to keep the forces at strength.
If the move is signed off by Mr Cameron, it could mean two Devonport-based frigates – HMS Cumberland and HMS Cornwall – will stay until at least the end of the summer.
Cumberland, which returned to the Westcountry only this weekend, is to be de-commissioned in June and Cornwall soon after that.
Without the transfer, many fear the “critical mass” of the naval fleet is at risk, which could in turn put at risk the RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset-based Commando Helicopter Force and training personnel at RNAS Culdrose in Helston, Cornwall.