RAF News

£1.4 billion modernised Chinook fleet

Two Chinooks in flight.
The new H-47(ER) aircraft will have a range of new capabilities; an advanced digital cockpit, modernised airframe, and a digital automatic flight control system.

A £1.4 billion contract to modernise the Chinook fleet over the next 10 years has been agreed. The deal will see British forces benefit from 14 of the latest iconic heavy-lift helicopters.

The order for the new aircraft signals the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to invest over £85 billion on military equipment over the next four years to reform and renew our Armed Forces.

Proven in battle and operated in every major conflict since the Falklands War, the Chinook is a highly-versatile aircraft.  The helicopter can operate in a diverse range of environments, from the desert to the arctic, and transport up to 55 personnel or ten tonnes of cargo. With a top speed of 300 kilometres per hour, the new H-47(ER) aircraft will have a range of new capabilities, including:

  • advanced digital cockpit
  • modernised airframe to increase stability and improve survivability
  • digital automatic flight control system to allow pilots to hover in areas of limited visibility

Two Chinooks in flight.

“From assisting emergency repairs to UK flood defences, providing vital logistics support during COVID-19 to its war-fighting role on Afghan battlefields, the Chinook has been the workhorse of the Armed Forces for over 40 years. The cutting edge H-47 (ER) will be at the forefront of our specialist requirements in dealing with threats and logistic support. Our £1.4 billion investment will mean we will be one of very few air forces with this capability.” 

Ben Wallace
Defence Secretary

The 14 aircraft will be purchased from the US via a Foreign Military Sales agreement and includes development and manufacture over the next decade. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2026. The new helicopters will be based at RAF Odiham, the home of the Chinook fleet.

“Proven on both UK and overseas operations time and again over the last 40 years, the Chinook continues to be a critical capability for UK Defence; this announcement assures Chinook operations for the decades ahead and is representative of our commitment to modernise capabilities whilst maintaining interoperability with key allies.”

Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Colman
Commander Joint Helicopter Command

In addition to traditional war-fighting roles, the Chinook supports a wide variety of specialist tasks, including the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities.  Most recently, it was part of the Joint Helicopter Aviation Task Force which transported NHS paramedics, equipment and patients during peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three Chinooks in flight.

Introduced into service in 1981, the 40th anniversary of the first Chinook was recently celebrated with a new commemorative colour scheme.  The oldest of fleet will be retired, enabling investment in the new aircraft to modernise the UK heavy lift capability.

Chinook Facts:

  • Rotor diameter -18.29m (60 ft)
  • Height - 5.68m (18 ft, 7.8 in)
  • Length - 30.14m (98ft 10.7 in)
  • Fuel capacity - 3,914 litres
  • Max speed - 302 kph (180 mph)
  • Payload - Up to 55 troops or around 10,000kg of freight

Chinook in flight with load sling.