Blue Force trackers and protective crew suits among list of enhancements

The Australian Army’s two Boeing CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters deployed to Afghanistan have become Canberra’s first rotary-wing assets to receive Blue Force tracking equipment, following the completion of an urgent US foreign military sales (FMS) deal. Produced by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and worth A$1.3 million ($940,000), the equipment was delivered by late February and recently installed under a fast track modernisation effort.

Chinook aircrews have been deployed with the latest personal protection equipment, with Aus­tralia’s Department of Defence having acquired additional General Dynamics Air Warrior crew equipment and flight suits under a A$1 million, FMS deal signed in mid-February. Deliveries will be completed by 31 July under the award.

Vice-chief of the Australian Defence Force, Lt Gen Ken Gillespie, told the Australian parliament’s joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade that additional upgrades are also in preparation for the aircraft. “About four upgrades that we want to do will be done while they are in theatre,” he said. “They are not absolutely mission-essential upgrades, but they are ones we want to follow through for additional safety and protection.” Gillespie said Australia’s CH-47Ds “will be the most capable in the Afghanistan theatre”, once the work has been completed.

The Australian government announced an upgrade programme for the two deployed aircraft last November, with this to also include new electronic-warfare self-protection and ballistic protection equipment and strengthened minigun mounts to replace the Chinook’s existing 0.50 calibre machine guns. This will give the aircraft “more firepower, but we also have less strain on the airframe and greater aerodynamics in the process,” Gillespie said.

He declined to provide specifics on the command, control and communications element of the project or to confirm the acquisition of Blue Force tracking equipment, but said the aircraft will carry “tools in the cabin for situational awareness so that we can see what other coalition assets are doing around our aircraft”.


Source: Flight International