The first of 14 new RAF Chinook helicopters has been unveiled today by the Defence Secretary following their entry into service on time.
During a visit to RAF Odiham in Hampshire, the home of the Chinook Force, Philip Hammond also announced a new £115 million agreement with Boeing Defence UK to maintain the engines of the RAF’s increased fleet of 60 Chinooks; a move that will replace 5 existing support contracts with one arrangement, saving the taxpayer over £20 million.
The first of 14 Chinook Mark 6 helicopters, which were ordered in 2011 as part of a £1 billion programme, have now achieved their entry into service on time, and 3 of the new aircraft have been delivered to the RAF, who have commenced training in the UK.
The Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, who himself is a Chinook pilot, were given a tour of one of the brand new aircraft and shown the upgraded capabilities that the helicopters provide to pilots and crew.
Benefiting from a new digital automatic flight control system that provides improved handling qualities and aircraft stability, offering increased safety, the Mark 6 is the most advanced heavy-lift helicopter ever operated by the RAF.
Philip Hammond said:
These state-of-the-art aircraft will provide a significant uplift in helicopter capability, operating as the battlefield workhorse of the RAF, supporting the army on the front line for decades to come. The 14 new Chinooks will boost our fleet to 60, already the largest in Europe.
The new aircraft are part of an £11 billion investment to update, replace and support all of MOD’s helicopter capability over the next decade that will sustain truly world-class rotary wing capabilities for the UK armed forces.
Air Chief Marshal Pulford said:
The Chinook Mark 6 represents the pinnacle of the RAF’s heavy-lift capability and is the most advanced Chinook helicopter we have ever operated.
Chinook has proved itself time and again on operations, most recently in Afghanistan. The new Mark 6 variant will ensure the Chinook fleet is able to continue to play a key role in future operations, wherever they may be.
MOD’s Director of Helicopters, Adrian Baguley, who was responsible for delivering the Mark 6 and the engine support contract, said:
The Chinook Mark 6 has been delivered into service on time less than 3 years after MOD signed the main contract with Boeing, which is a truly outstanding achievement.
This has been achieved through the excellent work of Defence Equipment and Support working together with our industry suppliers, Boeing and the front line to deliver this exceptional new heavy-lift helicopter capability for UK defence.
All 14 new aircraft will be delivered to MOD before the end of 2015 and are on track to be fully operational by early 2017.