Expected to be aired in public this month is the MoD’s vision for helicopter procurement and management, a cynical person might expect this to be announced before the much anticipated Question Time on the 10th of December, we will see.
In what is being trailed as a radical and bold plan, an additional 30 Chinook helicopters are set to get the nod.
Great I hear you say.
But wait for it, wait for it.
You didn’t think the Government was going to come up with any new funding did you, thought not.
In the frame for cancellation is the Future Medium Support Helicopter project which was supposed to replace Puma and the Sea King HC.4 Junglies, logically this would have been a tail fold Merlin (we have blogged this many times) although NH90, Blackhawk or even the AW149 would have been realistic alternatives.
Obtaining the additional Chinook’s would give the RAF a total fleet size of approximately 70, definately none too shabby. The RAF would also relinquish the Merlin HC3/3a’s with all of them going to the Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm to meet their commando needs. Ex RAF Merlin crews would convert to Chinook.
Single types will be consolidated at Main Operating Bases (MOB’s)
The RAF Chinook’s at RAF Odiham, the newly repainted Merlin HC3/3a’s and Merlin HM.1/2 RNAS Culdrose and the Lynx Wildcat (Army and Maritime variants) at RNAS Yeovilton. What would happen to RAF Benson is unclear but it would base the Puma’s until they go out of service and maybe act as an overflow for Odiham.
For Support Helicopter this is a good move, a sizeable fleet of a very capable aircraft, consolidated at a single MOB will deliver both military effect and cost effectiveness. We do have a concern about putting all our eggs into one basket and whether the new Chinook will in fact be new or refurbs but in general this would be a good move.
Unfortunately for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines they will be getting the last chicken in the shop.
The HC3/3a’s are not suitable for sustained maritime operation, no tail or rotor fold and issues about electronic system integration in the crowded EM environment of a warship are just a couple of issues to be concerned about. Are they better than the Sea King HC.4 even with an upgrade, perhaps so but however the MoD spin it (and spin it they will) taken in the round this is simply a reshuffling of the chairs on the deck or robbing Andrew to pay Ginger.