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With the increasingly complex nature of modern warfare, air forces are looking to helicopters to provide adaptability in unpredictable situations. Rear Admiral Johnstone-Burt emphasises the need for rotary wing capability in the British military.
At a time when defence budgets are under pressure, many air forces are increasing their investment in helicopters. This is in response to changing demands of the combat landscape - increased counter-terrorism operations have necessitated the deployment of resources for law enforcement and internal security roles, as well as conventional attack capabilities. Asymmetric tactics in current theatres, such as roadside bombs used by insurgents, have made helicopters the sine qua non for troop movement. These requirements are best served by aircraft with the ability to perform a variety of functions and move swiftly between locations.
In a speech given at the RUSI Air Power conference in March 2010, Rear Admiral Johnstone-Burt emphasised that the British armed forces are at a decision point in their commitment to helicopters, the level of which will have a significant impact on success in facing future challenges. Future conflict is likely to reflect the complexity of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, and this 'hybrid' warfare will need a flexible response from a co-ordinated helicopter command with sufficient resources.
Helicopters are the only resource with the flexibility to swing between every function required in the modern battlefield: ISTAR, attack, sustainment, troop-carrying, reconstruction and humanitarian responsibilities. Their adaptability can also meet these needs across a range of terrains, moving quickly in and out of jungle, desert, urban or rural environments. These qualities of adaptability and flexibility must not be overlooked.
For Rear Admiral Johnstone-Burt, Commander of Joint Helicopter Command, the rotary wing capability has proved its worth in recent years. The Strategic Defence and Security Review must acknowledge the importance of well-equipped and supported battlefield aviation, and ensure that British armed forces retain this essential capability.