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UK to spend US$2bn upgrading its Chinooks

written by Adam Thorn | May 17, 2021
A CH-47F Chinook (Boeing)

The UK Ministry of Defence has approved a £1.4 billion (US$1.97 billion) contract to modernise the Armed Force’s Chinook fleet over the next 10 years.

The order for 14 of the Boeing-built heavy-lift helicopters forms part of the UK’s Defence Command Paper, in which the government committed to investing over £85 billion (US$120 billion) on military equipment over the next four years to “reform and renew” its Armed Forces.

The Chinook helicopters are designed to operate in a diverse range of environments and are capable of transporting up to 55 personnel or 10 tonnes of cargo.

The aircraft has a top speed of 300km/h, with the new H-47 (ER) aircraft to have a range of new capabilities, including:

  • an advanced digital cockpit;
  • a modernised airframe to increase stability and improve survivability; and
  • a digital automatic flight control system to allow pilots to hover in areas of limited visibility.

“From assisting emergency repairs to UK flood defences, providing vital logistics support during COVID-19 to its warfighting role on Afghan battlefields, the Chinook has been the workhorse of the Armed Forces for over 40 years,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

“The cutting-edge H-47 (ER) will be at the forefront of our specialist requirements in dealing with threats and logistic support. Our £1.4 billion investment will mean we will be one of very few air forces with this capability.”

The 14 new aircraft will be procured from the US via a foreign military sales agreement, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2026.

The new helicopters will be based at RAF Odiham.

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Commander Joint Helicopter Command, Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Colman welcomed the new modernisation contract, noting their proven capability over the past 40 years.

“In addition to traditional warfighting roles, the Chinook supports a wide variety of specialist tasks, including the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities,” he added.

“Most recently, it was part of the Joint Helicopter Aviation Task Force which transported NHS paramedics, equipment and patients during peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Earlier this month, the US federal government has given the green light for Australia to purchase another four CH-47F Chinooks and equipment for $335 million.

In a statement, the State Department said it was vital to the national interest to “assist our ally in developing and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability”.

The iconic Chinook can trace its history all the way back to the 1960s. Their primary roles include troop transportation, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply, which they achieve via a wide loading ramp at the rear of its fuselage.

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