UK signs new equipment deals to improve Chinook fleet

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The UK Ministry of Defence has placed two new contracts intended to enhance the operational performance of its Boeing CH-47 Chinook HC2/2A transport helicopters.

Selex Galileo will supply 21 new Titan 385ES-HD electro-optical/forward-looking infrared sensor turrets, and upgrade another four in-service Titan systems to the high-definition standard. The equipment will be supplied between February 2010 and July 2011 under the deal, which is worth more than £10 million ($16.5 million).

"The [Titan HD] system will enhance the capabilities of the Chinook fleet in current operations," says Selex. The Royal Air Force has eight of its 38 Chinook HC2/2As deployed in Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led battle with the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Permali Gloucester has received a repeat contract worth almost £380,000 to provide additional cargo handling systems for installation with the Chinook fleet.

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The UK company supplied an initial number of systems between November 2007 and early 2008 to equip the RAF's Chinooks. The equipment's low-friction roller design enables the aircraft's crew members to rapidly deliver pallets, minimising the time spent on the ground during resupply missions.

RAF Chinook operations will meanwhile be boosted within the next few months with the availability of eight HC3-model transports, now being prepared for active service after spending several years in storage due to safety concerns. The aircraft are undergoing a so-called "reversion" programme of avionics modifications before entering use.

The MoD is also expected to soon announce the acquisition of additional CH-47 airframes. Two are needed to replace aircraft destroyed in Afghanistan during August, but a deal for up to 24 of the transports could be approved, according to military and industry sources.