HL Deb 25 January 1999 vol 596 cc122-3WA
Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for the formation of the joint helicopter command proposed in the Strategic Defence Review. [HL686]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert)

In July 1998, following the Strategic Defence Review, we announced our intention to create a joint helicopter command to pool the expertise of the three services in the operation of battlefield helicopter fleets and so enhance their fighting effectiveness.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has now accepted the recommendation of the Joint Helicopter Command Study Team that the command be based at the Army's land command headquarters at Wilton, Wiltshire; the headquarters will form on 1 October this year and will be fully operational by 1 April 2000.

The work of the study team has also confirmed that the joint helicopter command should bring together, under a single joint organisation, the Royal Navy's Commando helicopters, all operational Army Air Corps helicopters, including the whole of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which in future will include the attack helicopter, and the RAF's support helicopters. Its role will be to direct the training, planning and resourcing of these forces across the range of defence missions and tasks, thereby making most effective use of the available assets. The command will draw on the best practices from each of the services, while retaining and building upon individual service identity and ethos. Single service units will continue to be commanded and manned by personnel from that service, and a mix of Navy, Army, Air Force and Civil Service personnel will man the headquarters.