(March 30, 2007) -- Over the next two years, fourteen additional helicopters will be made available for use on military operations, the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne has announced today.
The Ministry of Defence has agreed to buy six new Merlin helicopters, which will be available within a year and to convert eight existing Chinook Mark 3 helicopters to make them available for deployment in two years. The complete package will cost around pound230 million.
Des Browne said:
"This is the best possible outcome for our joint helicopter force and for the Armed Forces as a whole. This package will deliver 14 additional military helicopters into new operational roles, with the first available for operations within a year.
"Battlefield support helicopters are one of the most crucial capabilities for military commanders. I am determined that we have enough if we need to send more to operations in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere." The Merlin has already performed well on operations in Iraq. These six helicopters are brand new aircraft originally purchased by Denmark, the last delivered in January this year. They have not, however, entered operational service with the Danes. The UK has agreed in principle with the Danish Government and AgustaWestland that the Merlins will be transferred to the UK. Denmark will then receive six additional aircraft from AgustaWestland. We are grateful to the Danish Government for this agreement, which demonstrates once more the strong link between our two NATO nations.
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