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Monday 20 July 2009

Chopper Cropper – 3

Still simmering today is Helicoptergate, kept in the public gaze by the outrage at our apparently uncaring Government, and their seeming refusal to supply enough helicopters to keep our troops away from Terry Taliban and his IEDs. However, on closer inspection, things don’t look as clear cut, which will not be to the liking of hacks and politicians, who like clear choices, with identifiable good and bad guys.

There has been a commitment to supply new helicopters to both the Army and Royal Navy. However, it goes back to the old argument: buying British, or buying off the peg kit from abroad – usually the USA. That brings back memories of aircraft that never were, like the infamous TSR-2, which was dreamed up in the late 50s as a low flying strike aircraft. The cost, as ever, kept rising, but the Macmillan Government merely toyed with cancellation – Mac was never very good with decisions – leaving it to Harold Wilson’s Labour administration in 1964 to finally admit we couldn’t afford it.

Since that time, the UK has bought in some kit from abroad, but still its armed forces (or at least their top brass) hanker for home made, or partly home made, product. So the Eurofighter project should come as no surprise: it’s partly ours, so we’ll shell out for it. So it is with helicopters.

Yes, we could have bought from the USA, but a commitment had already been made to buy a product called successively Future Lynx, then Lynx Wildcat, and now given the functional moniker of AW159. And, as Maggie would have reminded reporters as she handbagged them, it’s British. This is the helicopter that military leaders – and, it seems, many politicians – were lobbying for, including Gen Richard “Morny” Dannett, who has nuanced his stance sufficiently to enable him to suggest that Pa Broon’s tightness is the problem, rather than the top brass wanting their very own toys.

Moreover, as the Defence of the Realm blog has asserted, the survival of the Army Air Corps (Col Commandant being, once more, Gen Richard “Morny” Dannett) may have been at risk had there been a change of direction in favour of the Sikorsky “Black Hawk”. Thus the simplistic idea that Brown is the bad guy and “Morny” Dannett the good guy is shown to be plain flat wrong. As ever, the military top brass are able to lobby for their favoured solution, and at the same time, protest about the fallout. The Government of the day, whatever their stripe, get it in the neck, as the tendency of the news media – especially the tabloids and red tops – is to side with the military.

I noted yesterday that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne (heir to the seventeenth Baronet) is making noises about defence cuts if he becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now consider what Cicero’s Songs has to say about his experience, and imagine how someone like him will fare against the military lobby.

He won’t. More Chopper Cropper updates as and when ...

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