The UK's New Medium Helicopter is falling behind schedule

RAF Puma and Chinook formation
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Both Conservative and opposition MPs were taking an interest in the New Medium Helicopter programme last week.  It's clear that the competition is now running circa 9 months behind schedule now compared to expectations at the Industry Day.

It was expected that the competition would be finished by the end of 2022, with contract award summer 2023, first aircraft autumn 2024 and in-service 2025 - a schedule that looked sporty even then.

Mark Francois asked for (a) what definition of initial operating capability his Department has set for the programme; and (b) what is the estimated date for (i) initial operating capability and (ii) full operating capability.  Minister of State Alec Shelbrooke responded for the Government that they are waiting for detailed responses from Industry during the next phase of the competition before answering that question.

Shadow Defence Minister Chris Evans followed up with "To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent steps he has taken to progress the procurement of a new medium lift helicopter".  The response from Shelbrooke was to reference the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy and note that PQQ responses are still being evaluated.  The second half of the competition requiring detailed responses from shortlisted bidders is to be launched "later this financial year" which of course runs until the end of March 2023.

I could be wrong, but I doubt we will see NMH achieve IOC in 2025.  The question then is whether the Puma service life gets another short extension, or whether the UK Armed Forces just have to live with a capability gap with regards to medium lift.

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