UK procurement officials are facing awkward questions over acquisition policy after it emerged that a fleet of Airbus Helicopters H135s purchased as replacements for the British Army’s elderly Gazelles has been mothballed before ever seeing active use.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in October 2021 awarded Airbus Helicopters a contract for the “procurement of aircraft”, later confirmed to be for five H135 light-twins, all of which were delivered in 2022.

Gazelle lo-res-c-AirTeamImages

Source: AirTeamImages

H135s were due to replace elderly Gazelle fleet

Acquired under a requirement known as ‘Project Matcha’, the helicopters were due to replace the Gazelles being flown in Northern Ireland.

However, the H135s have never seen operational service and are instead being placed into long-term storage, two sources with knowledge of the matter have confirmed to FlightGlobal.

This is due to the improved security situation in Northern Ireland which has removed the requirement for helicopter flights, the sources indicate.

Defence officials are now considering a range of options for the H135s, which could include a sale or lease back to Airbus Helicopters or a transfer to the National Police Air Service, which already operates H135s.

The cost of the H135s has not been disclosed, nor if they have had any mission equipment installed.

The MoD declines to comment.