There are a few things I wish to take issue with in this article.
Firstly, you are right, there IS a severe shortfall in British Equipment, AND in other areas. This is true. And where ever there is a short fall, what happens is additional pressure is heaped upon every area, procurement, supply, in service reliability, failures, operational use and so on.
The comparison of Chinook vs Merlin is not really a fair one. The are two designs that might be used in the same purpose, but the Merlin was never specced to be operationally a Chinook challenger.
The lack of Chinooks could be solved tomorrow if there was someone with balls to commit to it. The problem is money, or lack of, and a continual political will to keep this money costs down.
But in actual fact, this comes down to a political failure, one that may not be as obvious as it seems.
That Political failure is one that is long and complex, at its core value is the cornerstones and assumptions made by Government over a long period. These in a nutshell are:-
We are part of NATO, as such, we will operate in joint ops and share the load in future operations.
We need to be capable of 2-3 operations at any one time, these operations will be limited, short term, international policing like events, and will be dealt with by point 1.
In Afganistan, we are operating as a portion of NATO, and as such, its true there is a fatally short amount of supply in lift, and in many other areas. But the truth is that it was never supposed that British forces would have to go fight alone in Afganistan, and indeed we are not. There is some support in Lift and Air support and no doubt in some other areas, but its not nearly enough, and its not nearly the committed amount that a NATO alliance and its members should have committed.
The guys fighting in NATO ops are Brits, Canadians, Dutch, Americans, and a few others. There are many notable who are not and I won't name them. Thank you Denmark for letting us take your 8 Merlin's and we'll buy you another 8 later, but you could have flown those 8 in air support/Lift of a NATO operation as your damn obligations require. That goes for a lot of other nations, in our glorious EU. There are over 3000 choppers in the EU, on paper available, most states reside inside NATO as well. Yet we have not enough lift capacity available.
British procurement cockups aside, this is a bigger issue. And a serious one. If NATO does not work, there is no real point in being there. If when the crap hits the fan, we have to go buy or find all the capability ourselves, then there is no point in being part of it. If when there is fighting to be done, its only our guuys who will stand in the firing line, then there is no point.
I happen to love NATO. It stood there as a protector of my society for all my child and adult life, but no more. Consistently, NATO and some 'allies' are not holding up to their end of the bargain.
When Afganistan directly and indirectly played its part in the Attacks of 9/11, everyone concurred that it was intolerable, and this led to the Afganistan operation. The cornerstone of NATO existence is if one of us is attacked, we are brothers.
I am not seeing that. I see laudable efforts, in the main from the Anglophile world, and some others, but in many a case I don't see it from elsewhere. Not withstanding some EU areas who WANT NATO to be destroyed, it brings into question the British Defense Policy.
We cannot assume things like others will pitch in and provide equipment and men and operational help, if it does not exist.
And we cannot cut and trim the armed forces if that happens.
So either NATO steps up, We step up, or we step back. Hence its why I say its a political failure, because the politicans set out a vision of international military joint ops that is La La land, a fantasy, and British Soldiers, Sailors, and Air/men/women are facing extreme risk and hazard, AND our whole defense structure is buckling under this duress.
We have been at war fully in 2 theatres now since 2001, and had to maintain ops elsewhere (Kosovo, Cyprus, and other areas) with a peacetime budget allocated on the premise of the idea of military and operational partnerships, ones that seem broken and failing.
Even today, the RN faces being frankly obliterated because the politicians in their view see little reason to maintain it. Plenty of news out there about cutting from 24 warships down to 16 and so on. Regiments being cut, Squadrons being cut, and it continues to spiral down. The Carriers and JSF might be cut, depends how badly things go from here.
In the context, what should have happened many months ago, was that certain friends in no uncertain terms should have been told 'pull your finger out. I am not asking you to send some Helicopters, I am telling you to send them, and that does not mean sitting in Kabul fucking hookers while taking never ending RnR.'
The Polite public comment that certain countries would 'like others to do more' should have been a private bloodfest.
Europe and NATO have the choppers available, and under the defense understandings, these should have made up any shortfall in any one countries available options. Inside the EU, there are over 3000 available, and yet none can get to Afganistan oddly enough.
Its all a serious answer the politicians need to answer. Because British men and women are dying because of it, and they deserve the Helicopters flying right now, and I don't give a shit who the hell flies them, I just know they exist, and I know they should be there, and I know they COULD be there.
In that context, this problem is rather more than a procurement cockup, its much larger and uglier than that.