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UK orders 22 new Chinook helicopters

Modified Boeing Chinook Mk3. Image Credit: Boeing

LONDON (BNS): Britain plans to buy 22 Chinook transport helicopters to bolster its military operations in Afghanistan.

In order to allow an expenditure of £900m more on the Afghan mission, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said Royal Air Force (RAF) Cottesmore in Rutland would be closed and thousands of defence jobs lost as the government rebalances its spending.

There could be reductions in Britainís force of Tornado and Harrier jets and withdrawal of the Nimrod MR2 in March 2010, one year earlier than expected, and the slowing of the introduction of the Nimrod MRA4 to 2012, a report by BBC said.

The order will expand Britainís fleet of Chinooks to 70, with the first of the new batch coming off the production line in 2012 and entering service in 2013, media reports said.

The Chinook is a twin-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter made by US company Boeing. The helicopter can carry up to 55 troops or 10 tons of freight and be used in a variety of operational roles, including troop transportation and casualty evacuation. They are highly capable and versatile helicopters that cope well with many diverse environments, including the harsh conditions in Afghanistan.

In 2001British forces were reportedly supplied 14 Chinooks. However, eight of them could not be used as the software source code needed to certify their airworthiness was not supplied. Those eight helicopters are expected to be in full service by the end of 2010 after modifications.

Britain has lost hundreds of its soldiers in Afghanistan. The Labour government has been criticised for failing to provide enough helicopters to transport its soldiers, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by roadside bombs.

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