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January 31, 2008: British military helicopters are suffering a shortage of spare parts, and qualified crews, resulting in only a third of them being available for service. There is a ten percent shortage in aircrew, and even larger shortfalls in spare parts.
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 some cannibalized for parts, to keep other aircraft in the air. The British military had kept details of this quiet, but an opposition member of parliament got the information out of the Ministry of Defence, in an attempt to force the government to buy more spares and technical services. Normally, military helicopters are expected to be combat ready about 70 percent of the time.