Prime delivery for new UK Chinook fleet

The UK’s planned fleet of 14 H-47 extended range (ER) Chinook helicopters will be delivered over a tight three-year timeframe it can be revealed, followed the recent award by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to US defence prime Boeing for the manufacture and delivery of the aircraft.

A June 22 contract modification by the US Department of Defense valued the UK programme at US$580m. A release from Boeing the same day valued the deal at US$578m, adding that the UK RAF will become the first international operator of a “Block II Chinook”, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2026.

The UK's 14 H-47(ER) Chinooks could be broadly similar in terms of capability as the MH-47G Block II operated by USSOCOM. Boeing

With a top speed of 300km/h per hour, the H-47(ER) aircraft will have a range of new capabilities, including an upgraded digital cockpit, a modernised airframe to increase stability and a digital automatic flight control systems to allow pilots to hover in areas of limited visibility.

The final configuration of the UK’s future H-47(ER) fleet could be similar to new MH-47G Block II Chinook helicopters being acquired by USSOCOM, the first of which was handed over to the service in September last year. In total, USSOCOM will acquire 24 MH-47G Block II Chinook’s from Boeing.

A July 2020 announcement from Boeing for nine MH-47G Chinook’s, bringing the total USSOCOM procurement to 24, was valued at US$265m or around US$29.4m per aircraft. In comparison, the UK’s planned 14 H-47(ER) will cost around US$42.1m per aircraft.

The UK acquisition is also two aircraft fewer than was first intended in a 2018 announcement from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which stated approval had been given for the sale to the UK of 16 H-47(ER) Chinook helicopters.

“These Chinooks are the future of heavy-lift, built on an existing foundation of advanced capability and life cycle affordability,” said Andy Builta, Boeing vice president and H-47 programme manager. “This contract for Block II aircraft sets the stage for the next 60 years of Chinook excellence on the battlefield.”

The Chinook design was first delivered to the UK 40 years ago, while Boeing later this year will also mark 60 years since the first flight of the type.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson told AIR International that delivery of the 14 aircraft will take place over a three-year period, with completion expected in 2028.

The Boeing announcement is one part of a wider £1.4bn investment into the UK’s Chinook force that was first revealed in May this year, which will include aircraft simulators, training, additional support equipment, new infrastructure, in-service support costs, technical assistance and aircraft spares provisioning.

Boeing currently provides the UK’s existing Chinook fleet with maintenance and services support at Gosport, Boscombe Down and RAF Odiham.

On planned operational duties for the new platforms, the MoD spokesperson stated the Chinook H-47(ER) “will be able to conduct the full range of taskings associated with the UK’s Chinook force.”

By Richard Thomas