A big problem I have with the crash of Helicopter ER-MCV and the loss of six Ukranian Crew and one Afghan civilian is why is there such secrecy about the deployment of this helicopter in Afghanistan?
The helicopter and its two stablemates have been operating for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan for some time and in addition Canada has on lease some six helicopters from the same company which they advertise quite openly. So why are we shrouding it all in secrecy?
Yesterday in Parliament Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): asked
Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the helicopter that is believed to have been shot down earlier this week, with the loss of eight lives, was a NATO helicopter, or was directly leased, if that is the right word, by the United Kingdom? I understand that it was a supply helicopter, and the insurgents may well have believed that it was a Chinook.
I think that the hon. Lady is referring to the six Ukrainians who lost their lives when their helicopter was shot down earlier this week. I do not want to trespass on to operational details. I think that it would be better if we considered what we are able to say publicly about that incident, and then referred to the matter at the end of the debate. There is some information, but it does not quite tally with what she suggested. I suggest that we seriously take on board her inquiry, but right hon. and hon. Members will know that there are good reasons why we do not go into details here.
So why all the secrecy?
Onto the end of the debate. Ann Winterton: asked
Is the right hon. Gentleman able to answer the question that I posed to the Foreign Secretary at the outset of this debate about the helicopter that had been contracted to the British?
We suffered the loss of a contract helicopter in the north of Helmand province and there were deaths as a result of that. I will write to the hon. Lady and give her more detail on it if she wants. I know that she often raises the issue of vehicles and that she has had a long-standing interest in the subject. People continue to say that there is a huge problem with vehicles. We have a suite of vehicles now, including Mastiff, Ridgback and Jackal. We also have the new tactical support vehicles—Wolfhound, Husky and Coyote—coming into province. It is cruel to pretend to those who have lost their lives that we will be able to stop our people dying by providing more helicopters or a suite of vehicles. Many Members have said that this afternoon, however. Even if we can get to the point where every single vehicle is available in every single location the length and breadth of the Helmand province for every operation, from time to time people will have to get out of those vehicles. They have to make contact with the people; they have to walk among them and win them over. That is dangerous work and it is cruel to pretend that we can remove the danger from the job that we ask our people to do.
So again why all the secrecy? What are we hiding?
Maybe the key to answer is in what was said in the article linked to above about the six helicopters leased by the Canadians from SkyLink Aviation. In the article it says that according to Colonel Christopher Coates, Joint Task Force – Afghanistan Air Wing Commander, the addition of this new capability will
“get Canadians off the roads here in Afghanistan where they are exposed to all the dangers of this country – ambushes and IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and the other things that all Canadians are aware of.”
Maybe this why there is all the secrecy, perhaps it is the embarrassment at having to admit that with extra capability we can reduce the danger to our Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Then again maybe there’s even more to it than that. Time will maybe tell.