Fresh details and images have emerged of an incident in which one of the Royal Air Force's Boeing CH-47D Chinook HC2 transport helicopters was damaged during an attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan last May.
The aircraft - ZD575 - was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and more than 100 rounds of 7.62mm and 12.7mm ammunition during a co-ordinated attack while it was flying near Musa Qala carrying passengers including the governor of Helmand province.
The Chinook - which was also carrying an underslung load at the time of the incident - was hit while flying at a height of around 150ft (45m), with the RPG strike leaving "football-sized holes" in its rotor pylon and one of its rotor blades (below).
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Its pilots managed to retain control of the aircraft and flew for around a further 8km (4.3nm) to reach a landing area where initial repairs could be made. It was flown to a more secure base within 24h and received additional repairs before returning to frontline duty within a further three days, and remains in theatre.
Chinook Force Commander Gp Capt Andy Turner has praised the skill and professionalism of the aircraft's crew in recovering the damaged aircraft, and hailed the effectiveness of a through-life customer support deal with its US manufacturer, highlighting "the speed and agility of Boeing in meeting our needs for immediate repair schemes".
Turner also cites "the exceptional nature of Chinook engineers to get the aircraft off the ground repaired within 24h, despite the austerity, threat and remote nature of the landing site".
The RAF has identified several contributory factors as having led to the Taliban's ability to set up an ambush for the aircraft, including high-level publicity surrounding the governor's planned visit to Musa Qala.
One of 40 Chinooks in RAF use, ZD575 entered service in November 1984, according to Flight's HeliCAS database.
The Chinook Force on 16 December received the accolade of Best Unit in the "Millies" awards ceremony run by British newspaper The Sun, with personnel receiving the award from Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Afghanistan.
"From April 2006, the RAF's Chinook Force has been permanently deployed in Afghanistan. Aircraft and crews operated in extreme environmental conditions, at the limit of performance, in black nights, against a sophisticated enemy and frequently under intense hostile fire," the commendation says. The aircraft have transported over 82,300 troops and extracted almost 2,000 casualties during the same period, it adds.
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