Ministry of Defence
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News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 24 September 2009

RAF Chinook helicopters operating in Afghanistan will receive a £408m upgrade to deliver more powerful engines and more advanced, digitised cockpits - the MOD announced today.

This upgrade will include a £128m contract which will give the whole Chinook fleet a significant boost by fitting a more powerful engine, enabling the Chinooks to operate more effectively in the hot summers and high altitudes of Afghanistan.

The new modern, fuel efficient engines also mean that despite being more powerful, the fleet will be able to fly further without refuelling and spend longer supporting the front line, before needing re-servicing.

In addition, our Chinook pilots will also benefit from improved visibility, thanks to a £280m contract to fit Thales ‘glass cockpits’, which will improve the capability of the aircraft under demanding low light conditions.

Speaking at the home of the Chinook fleet, RAF Odiham, the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies said:

“The Chinook is the cornerstone of our helicopter support effort in Afghanistan. These improvements will increase its capability and ensure it can play an even more valuable role in supporting our forces and NATO coalition allies in tackling insurgency in Afghanistan.

“Upgrading the Chinook is part of a series of improvements to our battlefield helicopter force and is powerful evidence of our commitment and determination to give our Forces the very best equipment.”

Group Captain Andy Turner, Station Commander at RAF Odiham, said:

“This is an essential and very welcome step change in the UK Chinook capability. It will increase the lift capacity of our aircraft in Afghanistan, broaden safety margins when the aircraft is heavy, reduce operating costs and equip the aircraft through to its out of service date.

“We already feel positive about what the engine will offer and I am confident hat the proven joint collaboration between RAF Odiham, the MoD helicopter Engines Project Team and industry will deliver this vital upgrade in record time.”

Flight Lieutenant Dan Padbury, Chinook pilot on 27 Squadron based at RAF Odiham, who is currently flying Chinooks in Afghanistan, highlighted the benefit of the new engines:

“It’s early days, but the new 714 engines have already performed as anticipated and will certainly increase our operational capability in theatres such as Afghanistan. Having flown a Chinook fitted with the new engines, I noticed a marked improvement in performance.”

The cockpit enhancement programme will see Boeing as the prime contractor, working with Thales UK and Vector Aerospace, which has long experience of Chinook maintenance and upgrade work. The new 714A engines, which will also be fitted by Vector Aerospace at Fleetlands, in Gosport, will be manufactured at Honeywell Inc. in the USA.

Notes to Editors

The RAF currently operates a fleet of 38 Chinook support helicopters in three operational squadrons (7, 18 & 27) and an Operational Conversion Unit, based at RAF Odiham. The Chinook Wing formed the heavy-lift element of the Joint Helicopter Command. RAF Chinooks are used for a variety of roles, including carrying up to 55 troops or 10 tonnes of freight. The crew comprises two pilots or a pilot and a weapons systems operator and two crewmen.Currently employed on essential support duties to NATO forces in Afghanistan, the aircraft has been heavily employed on a wide range of operations in recent years, including Iraq, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, the Gulf War and the Falklands. The new engines will be the more powerful Honeywell T55-L-714A engine which develop 3,750 Shaft horsepower @ 4000ft – a 16-20 per cent increase over the existing engines.The is a SERCO-run repair facility and engine test house with full electronic diagnosis facilities at RAF Odiham, managed by the MoD’s Helicopter Engines Team based at RNAS Yeovilton.

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For further information contact:

Beth Cowley, MoD Press Office: 0207 218 3255
Tim Lewis, MoD Defence Equipment and Support Press Office: 0117 913 0526
Adrian Harding, Honeywell Press Office: 01935 446512
Madonna Walsh, Boeing Press Office: 0207 340 1900


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Phone: 020 7218 7958