The UK Ministry of Defence has ordered 22 CH-47 Chinooks for the RAF as it seeks to bolster its rotary wing capability.
The new helicopters will allow an increase in capability in extreme conditions such as in Afghanistan, however the first 10 aircraft are not due to be delivered until 2013 at the earliest. Analysts have noted that while the newer aircraft may not see action in Afghanistan, the Chinooks currently deployed there can be worked a little harder in the knowledge they can be replaced sooner than originally planned.
“Our forces on the front line in Afghanistan repeatedly tell me that Chinooks are indispensable on operations,” Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said. “I am therefore delighted to announce plans to deliver more of these robust, effective and proven battle-winning helicopters.”
The order is part of the UK’s Future Helicopter Strategy announced by Secretary Ainsworth on December 14 which aims to operate a core combat fleet of between 65 and 75 each Chinooks, WAH-64 Apaches, AW159 Wildcat (Future Lynx) and EH101 Merlins by 2022.
In the meantime, Boeing Defence UK has re-delivered the first of eight Chinook Mk3s to the RAF after they had been laid up for almost a decade. The helicopters, originally ordered in 1995 and delivered in 2001 as versions of the US Army’s special operations MH-47E, remained in storage until recently due to a dispute between the MoD and Boeing over certification issues with their unique avionics configuration. In 2007 the MoD initiated a plan to reconfigure the aircraft to a standard common to existing Mk2 battlefield support helicopters, and Boeing UK began this work in 2008.
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