UK to buy 14 new Chinooks as Defence Secretary advocates for military spending boost

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LONDON – The UK will get 14 new Chinook helicopters, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced as the Defence Secretary called for military spending to be increased to 3% of GDP in a debate about the funding of Britain’s armed forces.

Britain negotiated the price down by £300 million for the fleet of US-made heavy-lift helicopters, which have double the range of a standard Chinook and can carry 10,000 kg of cargo.

Grant Shapps announced the commitment to proceed with the contract, reversing a decision by his predecessor Ben Wallace to scrap the deal in a diplomatic spat over the £2.3 billion price tag – £500 million more than initial estimates.

ZA680 Royal Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook Photo by Peter Tolnai | ID ...

Mr Shapps said: “Procuring these Chinook helicopters will mark a significant milestone in our efforts to modernise and enhance the agility of the UK armed forces, cementing our ability to respond at pace to situations and threats across the globe.

“The Chinook is one of our most iconic aircraft, having been operated in every major conflict since the Falklands War. Delivering on this deal not only enhances our capability, but will boost UK industry and skills.”

The Cabinet minister, on a visit to Poland on Wednesday, called for the inclusion of the 3% target in the Conservatives’ election manifesto, saying: “I want a bigger budget.”

He also called for an overhaul of recruitment, including an end to certain medical requirements and a lifting of the ban on soldiers growing beards, the Daily Mail reported.

Mr Shapps said: “I have coined the phrase ‘moving from post-war to pre-war’. We have to be much better prepared.

Who cares if somebody has got a beard? Does that really mean you cannot fight?

“Defence is the best way to protect ourselves against a military conflict – you have to show your adversaries – so I am clearly in favour (of a 3% target). We live in a more dangerous world, we’ve got Putin on the front line making gains.”

Research by the Royal United Services Institute in 2022 suggested that increasing defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030, as suggested by Liz Truss’s government, would require £157 billion in additional spending over the following eight years.