Blogs on the helicopters

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown quoted Lt Col Nick Richardson in Afghanistan who said he had "sufficient [helicopters] to get on with the task with which he’s been given".

Which suggests he was given a very particular task (like painting a helicopter or something), because earlier that morning, the Head of the British Army, General Richard Dannatt, told the BBC’s Today programme he was travelling around in theatre using an American helicopter.

And yesterday, the eleventh report of the Defence Committee in the UK said a "lack of helicopters is having adverse consequences for operations" in Afghanistan. This commenter on Tim Marshall’s blog claims from his personal experience that you won’t see a helicopter for three weeks if you are at a Forward Operating Base.

This is another episode in a series of serious procurement problems that have dogged Britain’s deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But don’t take my word for it – there’s been some interesting blogging on the helicopter saga. The Kings of War blog has a post by Dr Rob Dover who claims to spend "too much time thinking about defence procurement". He notes that "avionics is a particularly rich source of problems in UK defence procurement". 

Meanwhile, David Axe picks up on Richard North’s work on this rather under-reported helicopter crash, a story which has also been tracked by Fitaloon. (Now updated).

The story of this contracted helicopter being shot down leads Axe to conclude that "a chronic shortage of suitable NATO choppers means the alliance contracts a large proportion of its front-line air logistics to civilian firms", (which we don’t seem to know too much about).

Finally, North is worried that the whole helicopter debacle is actually masking much more serious procurement problems with protected vehicles.

P.S. I suppose it’s worth remembering that it’s not as though any of this should really come as a surprise. After all, way back in 2006, Christina Lamb in the Sunday Times made it pretty plain that the lack of air support was a problem. (Lamb, of course, couldn’t easily provide further updates on this situation because she wasn’t given an embed with British forces for two years after that story).