The Royal Air Force has taken delivery of the first upgraded Chinook Mk3 helicopter from Boeing, which will increase its airlift capability and support the air force’s operational needs in Afghanistan.

Boeing increased the Mk3 helicopter’s capability by converting the aircraft to a cockpit standard in line with the rest of the UK Chinook fleet and by installing several modifications.

RAF Chinook Force Commander Group Captain Steve Shell said this is a welcome addition to the fleet.

“The Mk3s will help strengthen our current fleet support both at home and abroad,” Shell said.

Boeing and Vector Aerospace, in cooperation with the MOD, have carried improvements on the Mk3 Chinook at the MOD’s Boscombe Down facility, under the Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) contract.

The eight UK Chinooks, which will be converted to the fleet standard, will be part of the TLCS programme.

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A multi-mission, heavy-lift transport helicopter, the Mk3 Chinook’s primary mission is to move troops, artillery, ammunition, fuel, water, barrier materials, supplies and equipment on the battlefield.

Medical evacuation, disaster relief, search and rescue, aircraft recovery, fire fighting, parachute drops, heavy construction and civil development are the secondary missions of the Mk3 Chinook aircraft.

RAF will receive the remaining seven UK Chinooks in December 2009 and in 2010.