Will Ultimately Join Six New Merlins In Afghanistan
Grounded at Royal Air Force Station Odiham for the past five
years, eight CH-47 helicopters are now scheduled to be converted
for operations to provide military support in Afghanistan.
The Chinook Mark 3s were ordered by the Ministry of Defense in
1995 for special operations. They were delivered in 2001, but were
soon grounded because IFR equipment software could not be properly
tested. Only 45 of 100 'essential elements' set out in the RAF's
requirement were actually developed, according to a 2005 BBC
This software problem rendered the helicopters to VFR flight
only. The $518 million Chinooks were only used on limited trial
flights since their arrival, an event members of parliament labeled
the 'Chinook affair' -- calling the whole ordeal "one of the worst
examples of equipment procurement."
In addition to the conversion project, the Ministry of Defense
has also agreed to buy six new Merlin helicopters. The complete
package will cost around $459 million, according to the Hampshire
"This is the best possible outcome for our joint helicopter
force and for the Armed Forces as a whole," Said Secretary of State
for Defense Des Browne. "This package will deliver 14 additional
military helicopters into new operational roles, with the first
available for operations within a year.
"Battlefield support helicopters are one of the most crucial
capabilities for military commanders," he added. "I am determined
that we have enough if we need to send more to operations in
Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere."
North East Hampshire Member of Parliament James Arbuthnot,
having recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan, said "The
difficult terrain there means that helicopters are the cornerstone
of almost all operations. Our forces are performing at full stretch
and the arrival of these additional Chinooks -- with their crews --
will help relieve the strain.
"It is important that the Mark 3s are converted for their new
role as soon as possible," Arbuthnot added.
The MoD has not said what, exactly, will be included in the
conversion project... only that the MK3s will be "converted for