After first reports emerged in April this year about the UK’s purchase of new Chinook helicopters, the Royal Air Force confirmed the £1.4 billion contract on May 13.
The service said in a release that the 14 new helicopters would modernize the Chinook fleet over the next 10 years.
The 14 aircraft will be purchased from the US via a Foreign Military Sales agreement which includes development and manufacture over the next decade. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2026. The new helicopters will be based at RAF Odiham, the home of the Chinook fleet.
The £1.4 billion deal (approx. $1.9B) was signed after the US defense department approved a possible sale of a total of 16 Chinooks to the UK back in 2018.
The new H-47(ER) variants that the UK is buying will have a range of new capabilities, including an advanced digital cockpit, a modernized airframe to increase stability and improve survivability, and a digital automatic flight control system to allow pilots to hover in areas of limited visibility.
“The order for the new aircraft signals the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to invest over £85 billion on military equipment over the next four years to reform and renew our armed forces,” the air force said.
The Chinook can operate in a diverse range of environments, from the desert to the arctic, and transport up to 55 personnel or ten tons of cargo. It has a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour.
In addition to traditional war-fighting roles, the Chinook supports a wide variety of specialist tasks, including the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities. Most recently, it was part of the Joint Helicopter Aviation Task Force which transported NHS paramedics, equipment and patients during peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introduced into service in 1981, the 40th anniversary of the first Chinook was recently celebrated with a new commemorative color scheme. The oldest of fleet will be retired, enabling investment in the new aircraft to modernize the UK heavy lift capability.