According to Blomberg, the U.K. and the Pentagon reached agreement on a $2 billion sale of 14 H-47(ER) Chinook helicopters built by Boeing Co., as well as engines, machine guns, radar and missile-jamming equipment for the choppers. The agreement was confirmed in a previously undisclosed March 25 letter from the U.K.’s embassy in Washington that paves the way for signed contracts. But the letter also indicates that the U.K. wants to delay delivery of the helicopters by as much as three years, in part due to impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even with a delay, the move is a boost to Chicago-based Boeing, which has been seeking to line up new customers for Chinooks built at its plant outside Philadelphia to help guard against a potential closing of the facility after the U.S. Army sought to scale back its orders. Boeing needs to build 18 helicopters per year to keep the supply chain and skill sets intact. Boeing’s internal projections “indicate production levels below sustainable beginning in 2023” and “at that point previously booked foreign sales and Army work will be trailing off.
The Boeing Chinook is a large, tandem rotor helicopter operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF). A series of variants based on the United States Army’s Boeing CH-47 Chinook, the RAF Chinook fleet is the largest outside the United States. RAF Chinooks have seen extensive service in the Falklands War, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Chinook aircraft, normally based at RAF Odiham, provides heavy-lift support and transport across all branches of the British armed forces. The RAF has a total of 60 Chinooks in active inventory as of 2015.
The current operational Chinook fleet comprises HC4, HC5, HC6 and HC6A aircraft, fitted with digital glass cockpits to a common standard. The HC6 was acquired as a UK-specific variant of the CH-47F and also introduced a Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS, pronounced ‘daffics’), greatly enhancing handling and safety, particularly when operating in recirculating dust or snow conditions. The Chinook HC5 results from upgrade of the extended-range HC3, or ‘fat tank’ aircraft, which carries double the fuel load of a standard Chinook.