Britain is having
maintenance problems with its 67 U.S. made AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships.
Currently, only 20 are fit for service, either in Afghanistan, or for training
pilots back in Britain. The problem has been building for over a year. Cuts in
defense spending in Britain led to low stockpiles of spare parts for many major
weapons systems. As a result, the hard working British AH-64 helicopter
gunships in Afghanistan are suffering a shortage of spare parts. In reaction to
this, hundreds of parts were removed from Britain's AH-64 fleet in order to
keep those in Afghanistan in working order. Some British officers would like to
get more AH-64s to Afghanistan, but the spare parts situation makes that
inadvisable (as it would ground a large number of other AH-64s that were
Britain has been cutting back on
defense spending since the end of the Cold War in 1991, as have most other European
countries. But operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have put more helicopters
into the air, more often, and in very demanding (hot and dusty) conditions.
This has used up spare parts stockpiles, causing many helicopters to be
sidelined and often cannibalized for parts, to keep other aircraft in the air.
The British military had kept details of this quiet, but it finally got out,
and now opposition members of parliament are attempting to force the government
to buy more spares and technical services.