UK Air Force buys 14 new Chinook choppers worth $1.64 billion for Afghan mission

August 22nd, 2011 - 9:37 pm ICT by BNO News  

ODIHAM, UNITED KINGDOM (BNO NEWS) — British Defense Secretary Liam Fox on Monday announced that the Royal Air Force (RAF) has agreed to buy more than a dozen new Chinook helicopters worth £1 billion ($1.64 billion) for its mission in Afghanistan.

Boeing will be supplying the RAF with the 14 Chinook Mark 6 helicopters, which can carry up to 40 people or 10 tons of cargo, bringing the United Kingdom’s overall Chinook fleet to 60.

“By committing to increased funding, greater efficiencies, and changes to our defense equipment program, we have brought reality to the defense budget and can start signing contracts that will deliver real equipment,” Fox said during a visit to RAF Odiham where he was given a tour of existing Chinook helicopters.

The UK government previously committed to a one percent a year real term increase in its Defense Ministry equipment and support budget from 2015. The £1 billion ($1.64 billion) Chinook contract includes development, manufacture, and the first five years of support to the new Chinooks.

Earlier this month, 22 U.S. Navy SEALs were killed when a U.S.-owned Chinook helicopter crashed in the remote Tangi Valley in Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. The victims represent the deadliest day for NATO forces in the history of the decade-long war in Afghanistan. Aboard the helicopter were also seven Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter who were also killed in the crash.

However, Fox noted that the RAF has operated Chinooks “magnificently” for many years in the most demanding environments, including in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan. “These additional helicopters will significantly enhance our existing heavy lift helicopter capability, supporting our frontline troops in current and future operations for decades to come,” Fox said.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the RAF will receive the first aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013 and it will enter service in May 2014. Delivery will be complete by the end of 2015 with three helicopters ready for operational deployment early that year. All fourteen will be fully operational by early 2017.

According to Boeing, the CH-47 Mk-6 Chinook has a new, machined monolithic airframe with UK-specific avionics, forward-looking infrared radar, a rescue hoist, aircraft defensive systems, and interoperable communication and navigation equipment. The new helicopters will be compatible with the existing UK Chinook fleet.

The RAF has operated Chinooks for more than 30 years in every major NATO engagement and on virtually every continent.

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