UAE awards contracts for CH-47 upgrade

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The United Arab Emirates has awarded AgustaWestland and Piaggio Aero Industries contracts to upgrade Italian-built Boeing CH-47C Chinooks acquired from Libya in 2003. The 12 CH-47s acquired by the UAE were acquired by Libya in the 1970s from Italian company Elicotteri Meridionali, now part of AgustaWestland.

The contract awarded by the UAE's Special Operations Command covers the upgrading of four CH-47Cs to a C+ standard similar to that of Italian army Chinooks and developed by AgustaWestland. The UAE upgrade includes airframe overhaul, glassfibre rotor blades, uprated transmission and 3,750shp (2,795kW) Honeywell T55-712E engines, which allow maximum take-off weight to be increased to 26,680kg (50,000lb).

Under a €54.6 million ($72.3 million) contract AgustaWestland will upgrade the airframe and dynamic system. Piaggio Aero will provide new engines built under Honeywell licence, the total value of $40 million covering delivery of 28 engines to equip all the UAEs CH-47s, plus spares, while the follow-on support agreement negotiated will allow the creation of a dedicated T55 service centre in the UAE to support the Chinook fleet.

AgustaWestland is believed to have received an earlier contract for four airframe upgrades, having already begun work in Italy on the first two helicopters. No date has been disclosed for deliveries. The UAE Chinook upgrade also involves other companies such as South Africa's Avitronics, which has announced a R60 million ($10.2 million) contract for the supply of undisclosed electronic equipment. Industry sources say Avitronics is to supply the same Helicopter Self-Protection System already acquired by UAE for its Aerospatiale SA330 Puma fleet.