The UK Royal Air Force has received two new mk3 Chinook helicopters, after a £408m ($664m) upgrade to the air force’s existing fleet of Chinooks, with new engines and digitised cockpits.

The new mk3s, the first of eight new Chinooks to be delivered to RAF Odiham in 2010, will provide air support to ground troops in Afghanistan.

RAF will use the Chinooks for carrying up to 55 troops or 10t of freight.

The RAF mk3 Chinook crew includes two pilots or a pilot and a weapon systems operator, and two air loadmasters.

Commander of Joint Helicopter Command, Rear Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, said the arrival of the first mk3s to RAF Odiham marked the start of a major and long-term enhancement to the RAF’s support helicopter capability.

“These aircraft will be vital in helping us expand our ability to train our crews and to support operations,” he said.

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The delivery is part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) announcement to acquire 22 brand new Chinooks, with the first ten expected to be delivered in 2012-13.