The Ministry of Defence will give a major boost to the military helicopter fleet with 22 new Chinook helicopters, the Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced today.
The first ten new Chinooks will start to roll off the production line in 2012 and be completed in 2013 increasing air support on the front-line in Afghanistan.
The Chinook fleet will increase in size from 48 to 70 airframes. This announcement is part of a new Future Helicopter Strategy that will deliver a 40 per cent increase in the number of lift helicopters available for use on operations in extreme conditions, such as those in Afghanistan. The RAF will fly the new Chinook alongside the Merlins which arrived in Afghanistan last month.
Announcing the Future Helicopter Strategy, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said:
“Our forces on the frontline in Afghanistan repeatedly tell me that Chinook are indispensable on operations. I am therefore delighted to announce plans to deliver more of these robust, effective and proven battle-winning helicopters.
“Helicopter capability has already doubled in the last three years and this future strategy builds on this, ensuring that our Armed Forces have the very best resources at their disposal.”
Commander Joint Helicopter Command, Rear Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, said:
“The superior lift performance of the Chinook has proved invaluable on operations. This new strategy will dramatically increase our military capability on the battlefield for many years to come.”
The new strategy will see the ageing Sea Kings, which the Royal Navy and RAF currently use, being taken out of service early. The Navy’s future helicopter requirements would be met by a combination of the Merlin fleet and new Wildcat. The Army will also operate Wildcat alongside the hugely successful Apache. It will mean that following the retirement of Puma from 2022, the UK’s Armed Forces will operate four core helicopter fleets of Chinook, Apache, Wildcat and Merlin – each of around 65-75 aircraft.
Today’s announcement builds on the substantial progress that has already been made this year to improve helicopter capability. Improvements include:
• an increase in helicopter flying hours (which is what commanders use to plan) by 95 per cent
• an upgrade to Lynx helicopters engines
• the first Merlin helicopters deployed to Afghanistan
• a £408M upgrade to the existing Chinook fleet with new engines and part-digitised cockpits
• a £300M upgrade to the Puma fleet to extend its service until at least 2022
• the first of eight converted Chinook Mk3 aircraft have been delivered into service.
This is part of a £6Bn programme of investment over the next decade.
Notes to Editors:
1. The Chinook fleet will increase in size from 48, which includes eight Mk 3 Chinook and replacement of two Chinook lost on operations, to 70 airframes.
2. Photographs and footage of military helicopters are available at:
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