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Helicopter Crisis?

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    Helicopter Crisis?

    A quarter of the Armed Forces helicopter fleet is grounded for repairs with many needing lengthy overhauls after flying in Iraq.

    Out of the Services' fleet of 569 helicopters the latest figures released by the Ministry of Defence show that 121 are under repair and a further 79 have been classified as "unrepairable".

    More worryingly for defence chiefs is that a high number of new Merlins, which can carry 25 soldiers, are out of service with one in three under repair.

    The Army uses helicopters to ferry troops around in Iraq and avoid roadside bomb attacks. Flights run daily from the headquarters at Basra airport to the centre of the city, north into the dangerous Maysan province and a small number of Pumas risk ground fire while ferrying troops around Baghdad.

    Daily, flights that do not have a high operational priority are frequently cancelled as helicopters break down. There is also a concern that with a big British
    deployment to Afghanistan likely next spring, further pressure will be put on the fleet that will again be operating in a difficult environment.

    An MoD spokesman said: "We don't always need to have all our helicopters available at any one time and this situation is not something we are particularly concerned about. But it is fair to say there is more pressure on machinery in times of conflict."

    "Helicopters are reasonably reliable in a temperate climate but out in Iraq with everyone doing a lot of flying has made them perform more than when they were first purchased," one RAF officer said.

    Tim Ripley, an aviation expert for Jane's Defence Weekly, said the military did not have enough money or spares to carry out a high rate of maintenance.

    From today's Telegraph...