UK MOD signs upgrade deal for C-17 and CH-47 fleet

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) will invest almost £400m (US$552m) to improve the capabilities of its C-17 Globemaster aircraft and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, with the platforms forming much of the backbone of the country’s military lift fleet.

According to a September 12 release, the UK’s C-17 fleet – which recently played a key role in the UK’s evacuation from Afghanistan – will receive a £324m investment. This will upgrade software and hardware to improve airlift capability as part of a contract with the US Air Force.

The UK RAF's C-17 fleet was heavily involved in the recent airlift mission in Kabul to rescue nationals and other eligible people from the country after the Taliban recaptured the country. UK MOD/Crown copyright

The UK Royal Air Force's (RAF's) fleet of Mk5 and Mk6 Chinook helicopters - officially designated HC5/HC6 in service - will be enhanced with new defensive systems, as part of a £64m contract with Boeing Defence UK which will make them harder for adversaries to detect.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, said: “This investment ensures our aircraft are equipped with cutting-edge technology to face a myriad of emerging threats from adversaries.”

The UK MOD said the investment builds on commitments outlined in the Defence Command Paper earlier this year, which stated an operational obligation to both aircraft as part of the Integrated Force 2030 approach.

Negotiated by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the five-and-a-half-year C-17 contract will continue support for the aircraft under the ‘Virtual Fleet’ concept, where all nine operating nations have access to combined support system.

Upgrades will include enhancements to the Beyond Line-of-Sight satellite-enabled communication equipment, a wider field of view via the Head-Up Display in the cockpit to increase pilot situational awareness and widening the scope of the current free-fall parachuting capability.

The five-year Chinook helicopter contract managed by DE&S will see the installation of Infra-Red Suppression Systems (IRSS) across some of the fleet, offering better protection from threats posed by new missile systems using the infra-red signature of the aircraft to target. IRSS technology will counter with ‘blanking plates’ on the helicopters to mask hot components and redirect airflow to cool the exhaust gases, making it more difficult to target.