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The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to receive 14 new Boeing H-47 Chinook Extended Range (ER) heavylift helicopters under a deal agreed with the US government, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) officially announced on 14 March 2024.

Deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled to commence in 2027.

While the MoD declined to confirm the contract value of the Chinook buy to ESD, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps indicated on 13 March during a press conference in Poland that the contract value was GBP 2 billion (EUR 2.34 billion). He credited his predecessor as defence secretary, Ben Wallace, as having contributed to a negotiating down of the contract price by GBP 300 million in refusing to sign the deal after its price tag had grown significantly from an original figure of GBP 1.4 billion in April 2021, when the prospective purchase was first announced.

According to the UK MoD’s 2021 Defence Command Paper, the 14 oldest Chinooks in RAF service will be retired as the new CH-47s enter service. It is understood that no decision has been made on what will happen to the retired Chinooks, which could be used for spares harvesting to sustain the remaining fleet or sold on to a suitable buyer.

The new H-47(ER) helicopters will be able to transport 55 personnel or 10 tonnes of cargo – similar to the RAF’s current Chinook HC6s – but the MoD claims the new aircraft will have double the c740 km range of the RAF’s current Chinooks, making them particularly suitable for special forces operations.

With a top speed of 300 km/h, the new Chinooks will have a range of new capabilities, including an advanced digital cockpit; a modernised airframe to increase stability and improve survivability, and a digital automatic flight control system to allow pilots to hover in areas of limited visibility.

A UK MoD press release quoted Shapps as saying, “Procuring these Chinook helicopters will mark a significant milestone in our efforts to modernise and enhance the agility of the UK armed forces, cementing our ability to respond at pace to situations and threats across the globe.

“The Chinook is one of our most iconic aircraft, having been operated in every major conflict since the Falklands War. Delivering on this deal not only enhances our capability, but will boost UK industry and skills,” Shapps added.

The MoD asserted that the programme will bring in an estimated GBP 151 million of extra investment into the UK economy because British companies will produce components critical for manufacturing and maintaining the Chinooks.

According to UK MoD data the RAF has a current fleet of 59 Chinook HC5/HC6/HC6A helicopters, of which 39 were in service as at 1 April 2023.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps officially announcing on 14 March 2024 that the UK has finally agreed a deal with the US government to acquire 14 new H-47 Chinook Extended Range (ER) heavylift helicopters. (Image: X feed/G Shapps)