Defence minister Philip Hammond today unveiled the first of 14 brand new Boeing Chinook HC6’s for the Royal Air Force. 12 of the 14 are to replace the Westland Merlin’s when they transfer to the Royal Navy and 2 to replace airframes lost in Afghanistan.

During the visit, Hammond also announced a new £115 million agreement with Boeing UK to maintain the Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines of the 60 strong fleet which will save up to £20 million by consolidating 5 existing contracts with other companies.

The Chinook Mk6 order was placed in 2011 as part of a £1 billion programme which has already seen three aircraft delivered to the UK with crew training underway.
Like the HC4 variant, the 6 comes up with the Thales Topdeck cockpit package but the latest mark’s main advantage of the is the new Digital Automated Flight Control System (DAFCS) which dramatically improve the aircraft’s handling and capabilities, making it the most advanced rotary aircraft the RAF has ever operated.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“The strategic importance of the Chinook Mk6 should not be underestimated. These helicopters provide a significant uplift in helicopter capability operating as the battlefield workhorse of the RAF on the frontline for decades to come.”

All 14 Chinook HC6 aircraft are on track to be delivered by the end of 2015 and fully operational by 2017. The overall objective of the programme is to bring the current HC2/HC2A/HC3/HC4 fleet of numerous specifications to a standardised fleet with the HC4 and 6 with identical specs and the HC3 upgraded to the HC5 for Special Forces missions as originally planned.