The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled the first CH-47 Mark 6 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Odiham in Hampshire, UK.
Around 14 Mk6 Chinook helicopters were ordered by the MoD along with a five-year support package from Boeing under a £1bn deal in August 2011, to help enhance the RAF’s existing heavy-lift helicopter capability.
In addition to taking delivery of the first three helicopters, the RAF has also started training in the UK.
After unveiling the helicopter, UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the new helicopters will provide a significant uplift in helicopter capability by operating as the battlefield workhorse of the RAF, and supporting the UK army on the front line in future.
Hammond said, "The 14 new Chinooks will boost our fleet to 60, already the largest in Europe.
"The new aircraft are part of an £11bn investment to update, replace and support all of MOD’s helicopter capability over the next decade that will sustain truly world-class rotary wing capabilities for the UK armed forces."
UK Air Staff chief air chief marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said the Chinook Mark 6 represents the pinnacle of the RAF’s heavy-lift capability and is the most advanced Chinook helicopter ever operated by the service.
"The new Mark 6 variant will ensure the Chinook fleet is able to continue to play a key role in future operations, wherever they may be," Pulford said.
The new helicopters are claimed to feature a new monolithic airframe with UK-specific avionics, forward-looking infrared radar (FLIR), aircraft defensive systems, interoperable communication and navigation equipment and a digital flight control system, which improves their ability to operate in the hot and dusty environments.
Deliveries of all 14 helicopters to the MoD will be completed before the end of 2015, while final operational capability is planned for early 2017.
Meanwhile, the MoD has also signed a new £115m agreement with Boeing Defence UK for thesustainment of RAF’s Chinook fleet engines, which is expected to replace five existing support contracts, bringing more than £20m in savings to the taxpayer.
Image: An UK Royal Air Force Mark 6 Chinook helicopter in flight. Photo: Crown ©.