The United Kingdom is to procure 16 new Boeing H-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, with US State Department approval for the sale being announced on 19 October.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which disclosed the approval, the proposed sale comprises 16 Chinooks as well as items of equipment associated with the US special forces’ MH-47G variant of the helicopter.
The MH-47G-specific equipment listed in the notification includes extended range (‘fat tank’) fuel tanks, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turrets, and multimode (terrain-following, terrain-avoidance, and weather detection) radars, with other items including defensive weaponry and countermeasures. The DSCA did not list the aerial refuelling probe normally fitted to the MH-47G, but the helicopter is plumbed for this feature should it be requested at a later date.
If approved by Congress, the sale would be worth USD3.5 billion. This would include training and support.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) currently fields 60 Chinooks. These comprise 38 HC4 helicopters, which are equivalent to the US Army’s CH-47D-standard plus UK-specific modifications (these aircraft are currently going through a further upgrade process to bring them up to a new HC6A standard); eight HC5 helicopters, which are equivalent to the US Army’s MH-47E-standard plus UK-specific modifications; and 14 HC6 helicopters, which are equivalent to the US Army’s CH-47F-standard plus UK-specific modifications.
With the oldest of the HC4 Chinooks having been received from 1981, it is likely that the new helicopters will be used to replace these platforms rather than adding to the overall size of the fleet. Also, with the HC5 Chinooks now being employed as part of the wider UK fleet, the new helicopters will likely take on the niche special forces role that these other ‘fat tank’ platforms were originally acquired for.
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