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Defence Committee launches inquiry into aviation procurement

21 March 2022

The Defence Committee launches the first of two inquiries into aviation procurement, which will cover the RAF and the Naval and Army Air Arms, as well as both rotary and fixed wing assets.

The Committee’s examination of aviation will complete the Committee’s series of inquiries examining procurement within the Services: “Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability” and “We’re going to need a bigger Navy”.

This inquiry will focus on the strategic context, existing contracts and capabilities, and the impact of planned reductions to the fleet. The Committee will also explore the reasoning behind planned reductions to the existing fleet, including the early retirement of fleets and the scaling-back of commitments to purchase additional F35-B fighter aircraft. The inquiry will also address capacity, asking whether uplifted contracts for both rotary and fixed wing Military Flying Training will resolve this issue.

The deadline for submission of written evidence is Friday 6th May 2022. Full terms of reference can be found below.

A second, follow-on inquiry will examine proposals for future capabilities, including the Future Combat Air System and new medium-lift helicopter. It will consider whether the MoD has the requisite structures and expertise to robustly manage these significant investment programmes, and how it should seek to support a sustainable and thriving domestic aviation sector. Further details, including arrangements for submitting evidence on these topics, will be published at a later date.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:

“Following on from our examination of armoured fighting vehicles and the Naval fleet, the Committee is turning its attention to aviation.

“In this age of warfare, robust aviation capability is a core component of our Armed Forces and is essential to our readiness to respond to threats. The Royal Air Force is the world’s oldest independent air force and has, over the last century, played a crucial role in protecting and defending the UK.

“We are standing at a critical juncture in our history. War is raging in Europe and investment in defence procurement is now more important than ever. This inquiry will assess our aviation capabilities and ask whether we are future-proofing our fleet. The early retirement of some aircrafts raises the possibility of gaps in our capability in the years ahead and there is continued uncertainty around the MoD’s intention to purchase additional F35-B Lightning fighter jets. We look forward to exploring these issues in our inquiry.”

Written evidence

The Committee welcomes written evidence on the following questions:

  • Will the proposals set out in the Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper deliver the aviation capabilities (fixed-wing and rotary), combat mass and interoperability required of UK Armed Forces, particularly in light of the changed security situation in Europe?
  • What is the rationale behind, and what are the implications of, planned reductions to the existing fleet, including:
    • Combat air, with the early retirement of Tranche 1 Typhoons and the apparent scaling-back of commitments to purchase additional F35-B fighter aircraft.
    • Fleet mobility, with regard to the early retirement of the C-130J Hercules, and the removal of the Puma and older Chinook helicopters from service.
    • Airborne early warning and control, with the early retirement of the E-3D Sentry and the decision to reduce the number of E – 7A Wedgetails entering service from 5 to 3.
  • Will the uplifted contracts for both rotary and fixed wing Military Flying Training effectively and rapidly resolve capacity issues?

Form of written evidence: 

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain: 

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Submissions should be arranged in numbered paragraphs.

Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence

Deadline for submissions 

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by Friday 6 May 2022.  

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions. 


We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.

Further information

Image: UK MOD © Crown copyright