Helicopters worth £35m mothballed before flying a single minute

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of ‘wasteful procurement’ over the Airbus H135 helicopters - Airbus
The Ministry of Defence has been accused of ‘wasteful procurement’ over the Airbus H135 helicopters - Airbus

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of “wasteful procurement” after five helicopters worth more than £35 million were mothballed before flying a single minute.

In January last year, the MoD selected the Airbus H135 helicopter to replace Gazelle helicopters, which are due to be retired in March 2024, in the Army Air Corps.

While the first H135 was delivered to the MoD in October 2022, the following month it was decided that the five H135s, which cost £35.28 million, were no longer required for their procured purpose.

All five have been mothballed pending a decision on their future. The helicopters never entered the in-service phase, and are yet to have flown at all.

It is understood that the MoD is withholding information about the reason for its decision to mothball the helicopters because any disclosure would “prejudice the capability, effectiveness, or security of the Armed Forces”.

When asked last month when the decision had been made that the light utility H135s would not enter service, Alex Chalk, the procurement minister, told the Commons: “A decision is yet to be made on whether the aircraft will remain in defence.”

Tories investigate MoD procurement

It comes as the MoD is investigated over its procurement process in an attempt to get to the bottom of repeated failings.

The inquiry, being led by Mark Francois, will examine MoD failures to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money properly going back at least two decades.

Recent procurement controversies include the beleaguered £5.5 billion Ajax programme, which the public accounts committee described as being “flawed from the outset” and said the department had “once again made fundamental mistakes” in planning and managing a major equipment programme.

Meanwhile, a report last year by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which evaluates the Government’s major spending plans, found that in 52 projects under way at the MoD, worth £194.7 billion, only three were given a green rating that suggests “successful delivery appears highly likely”.

Labour claims that, since 2010, the Conservatives have “wasted at least £15 billion of taxpayers’ money through MoD mismanagement of defence procurement”.

Kevin Jones, a Labour MP who sits on the Defence Sub Committee, told The Telegraph: “At a time when defence budgets are tight, this is yet another example of unexplained waste by the Ministry of Defence under its current leadership. The Government needs to come clean about why these decisions were taken and when.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted the purchase of the helicopters “was not wasteful procurement”, adding: “Operational circumstances changed and these H135s were no longer required for their procured role.”