House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 11 Mar 2008
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a
statement on the capacity of (a) HMS Illustrious and (b) HMS Ark Royal to remain
in service until the future aircraft carriers join the fleet. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious are to be withdrawn from
service in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Our plans allow both ships to be fully
supported in service until their scheduled withdrawal in advance of the future
aircraft carriers joining the fleet.
House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 06 Mar 2008
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what fleets of helicopters are available to UK armed forces in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq; and what future (i) enhancements and (ii) changes to the number of helicopters are planned by his Department. 
Des Browne [holding answer 4 March 2008]: As of February 2008, the UK routinely deployed Chinook, Sea King, Lynx and Apache helicopters in Afghanistan and Merlin, Puma and Lynx helicopters in support of operations in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence keeps helicopter numbers and capability under constant review and the nature and scale of the assets we deploy can and does vary over time. I am withholding further details of our helicopter deployments as disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result of experience on operations, we are taking steps to increase the robustness of our existing helicopter fleets, such as the purchase of the six Danish Merlin helicopters and the conversion of the eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters to a support helicopter role. We have carried out extensive modifications to improve the operational capability of our helicopters in response to urgent operational requirements, including fitting new rotor blades to a number of our Sea Kings to improve their performance in hot and high conditions, enabling their deployment to Afghanistan. We are also increasing the number of flying hours we will deliver each month to commanders on the ground in Afghanistan from our Chinook and Apache fleets. As we have made clear previously, UK forces in Afghanistan make use of civil helicopters provided through a NATO contract and our forces also routinely draw upon helicopters provided by other ISAF nations.
Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces have not been provided with Osprey body armour on deployments in
(a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Des Browne [holding answer 4 March 2008]: A range of personal protective
equipment is available to troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and commanders on
the ground are able to choose the correct equipment appropriate for any
particular set of operational circumstances. Enhanced combat body armour is
provided as standard to all personnel in both theatres. Osprey body armour
provides additional protection but at the expense of reduced mobility and
increased heat retention. Osprey is not therefore issued as standard to all
deploying forces but it is made available wherever and whenever commanders on
the ground believe it to be the most appropriate protective equipment.
We do not hold records centrally of which individuals have and have not been
issued with Osprey body armour at any particular time. But sufficient sets of
Osprey body armour are available in both Iraq and Afghanistan for all those
personnel who require it.
Military Aircraft: Helicopters
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his
Department is spending in 2007-08 on new helicopters for the armed forces.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 4 March 20