The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, has today announced a contract award for 14 new Chinook helicopters, the RAF's workhorse on the front line in Afghanistan.
The contract with Boeing to supply the Chinook heavy lift helicopters will bring a significant enhancement to the mobility of front line forces. Already the largest fleet in Europe, this new contract will bring the UK’s overall number of Chinooks to 60.
Dr Fox made the announcement during a visit to RAF Odiham, where he was given a tour of existing Chinook helicopters and spoke to crews who have recently returned from Afghanistan.
Today’s announcement follows the Government’s recent commitment to a one per cent a year real terms increase in the MOD’s equipment and support budget from 2015.
This new Chinook contract is valued at £1bn, including development, manufacture, and the first five years of support for the new Chinooks.
Dr Fox said:
This government is committed to delivering a top class equipment programme that is properly funded.
By committing to increased funding, greater efficiencies and changes to our defence equipment programme, we have brought reality to the Defence Budget and can start signing contracts that will deliver real equipment. The previous government promised more Chinooks, but never had the money for them and never ordered them. It was just an aspiration.
From the Falkland Islands to Iraq and Afghanistan, the RAF has operated Chinooks magnificently for many years in the most demanding environments. These additional helicopters will significantly enhance our existing heavy lift helicopter capability, supporting our front line troops in current and future operations for decades to come.
The Chinook is an incredibly versatile aircraft; capable of transporting up to 40 men or 10 tonnes of cargo, it provides vital support to front line forces in Afghanistan. The new Chinook Mark 6 helicopters will feature a digital flight control system, making them easier to operate in the most difficult conditions; including hot and dusty environments such as those encountered in Afghanistan.
The RAF will receive the first aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013 and it will enter service in May 2014, making an immediate contribution to the flexibility of the UK Chinook capability.
Delivery will be complete by the end of 2015. Three helicopters will be ready for operational deployment in early 2015, and all fourteen will be fully operational by early 2017.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, said:
Chinook is an exceptionally capable helicopter that in the hands of the very skilful RAF crews has proved itself time and again in many operational theatres across the globe and is the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s helicopter fleet.
This procurement will significantly enhance our battlefield helicopter capability and, alongside our other rotary wing platforms, the additional Chinooks will sustain the RAF’s world-renowned support helicopter capability.
This procurement will cement the role of the RAF’s highly professional and committed support helicopter aircrew and ground crew at the heart of delivering decisive air power.
Vice President and Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK Ltd, Mike Kurth, said:
The Boeing Company has a long-standing and growing relationship with the United Kingdom, its military and its aerospace industry and we are especially honoured by the confidence the RAF has shown in the Chinook.
We feel a special kinship with the RAF crews because our employees are working shoulder to shoulder with them to deliver capability to the front line.