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Goodbye to all that
TWO warships will be axed Mr Ainsworth told fellow MPs. maritime reconnaissance aircraft Chinooks).
and Harrier air and ground
“Our priorities in Afghanistan will be paid off next month; the
● Jungly Sea Kings on HMS Illustrious Picture: PO(Phot) Christine Wood
■ The Airborne Surveillance
crew face their second
are to provide the best levels of introduction of their replacements, and Control mission, performed
upheaval in a decade to
personal equipment and protection the MR4, has now been delayed with aplomb by Culdrose-based
pay for extra kit for war in
to meet the fast-changing threat until 2012, nine years later than ‘Bagger’ Sea Kings currently
and to increase investment in key planned. deployed in Afghanistan, will be
capabilities, including helicopter carried out by modified Merlin ■ Older variants of Fleet Air
Veteran survey ship HMS
capability and our strategic air Arm Lynx and Merlin Mk1s will Mk1s.
Roebuck and Sandown-class mine
bridge.” be retired ahead of schedule in ■ The Search and Rescue
countermeasures vessel HMS
The minister told Parliament favour of the newer Wildcat and mission, carried out at HMS
Walney are to be decommissioned
that the MOD had to cut its cloth Merlin Mk2s. Gannet and by 771 NAS in
this year.
elsewhere to help pay for the extra “These decisions have not been Culdrose, will be carried out by
Older versions of Navy Lynx
taken lightly, but these are tough
a new helicopter under a PFI
plus Merlin Mk1s will also be
To that end, he announced:
times for everyone in defence
initiative between the MOD and
retired early and all Sea Kings
the Maritime and Coastguard ■ A reduction in the personnel
and we must ensure we prioritise
will be withdrawn by 2016, earlier
strength of the three Armed Forces
spending on operations to achieve
Agency which is looking to
than planned.
by 2,500.
success in Afghanistan,” Mr
overhaul the country’s SAR
The changes were announced
■ One Harrier squadron will
Ainsworth said.
by Defence Secretary Bob
be decommissioned, as will RAF
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark
No decision has yet been taken
Ainsworth as part of a £900m
Cottesmore – home of the Naval
Stanhope said the RN had to bear
on the future home of the CHF
package focusing on equipment Strike Wing – with all jump
its share of the “tough choices”
Merlin force, but all 62 Wildcats
for the war against the Taleban, jets relocating to nearby RAF
being made across defence.
– and Whitehall is looking at
including extra Chinooks, more Wittering. Aircraft will also be
He promised no compulsory
buying eight more to replace
night-vision goggles for the troops, withdrawn from service early,
redundancies for personnel as a
the battlefield Lynx, due out of
more vehicles, more Raptor robot although the actual composition
result of the reductions.
service in 2018 – will be based at
spy planes and kit to deal with of the joint RAF-RN Harrier force
“It is good news for the Naval
RNAS Yeovilton.
roadside bombs which inflicted so won’t be determined until this
Service that there will be no
Rear Admiral Simon Charlier,
many casualties on British troops year’s Defence Review.
impact on our major programme
the head of the Fleet Air Arm,
in 2009. ■ One survey ship and one
of investment in the capabilities
said the overhaul of helicopter
“Support for our operations in minehunter will be paid off.
we need for the future – the
forces was “a sensible, affordable
Afghanistan is our main effort,” ■ All RAF Nimrod MR2
programmes to deliver the Queen
proposal that consolidates existing
Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers,
HMS Roebuck in the Clyde Picture: LA(Phot) Stuart Hill●
the Astute-class submarines, the
Daring-class destroyers,” he said.
“Although Afghanistan is our
current top priority, our country’s
other security and defence interests
have not gone away.”
At the same time, Whitehall
also announced a major shake-up
of all its helicopter assets which
will see some substantial changes
for the Fleet Air Arm:
■ All variants of the venerable
Sea King – celebrating its 40th
birthday this year – will be out
of service two years earlier than
planned in 2016.
■ The ‘jungly’ Sea King role,
carried out by the Yeovilton-
based Commando Helicopter
Force, will be performed instead
by Merlin Mk3s, transferred from
the RAF to the Fleet Air Arm
(the RAF crews will re-train to fly
● HMS Walney in the foreground on Exercise Orion in Northern Turkey in 2007
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