The UK's long-expected procurement of additional Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters has taken a major step forward with US approval granted for a possible 16-unit acquisition.
Detailed in a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification dated 19 October, the approval covers the potential sale of up to 16 Chinooks in an extended-range configuration.
To be acquired via the US Foreign Military Sale process, the DSCA values the deal at $3.5 billion. It also incorporates weapons including M134D-T miniguns and 7.62mm machine guns, as well as training and support.
London has for several years indicated a requirement for additional examples of the tandem-rotor type to replace some of the oldest examples in the Royal Air Force fleet, which in many cases are approaching 40 years old.
Although not specifically identified in the DSCA notice, some of the additional equipment listed corresponds to that found on the MH-47G special forces variant.
The RAF currently fields a fleet of 60 Chinooks, with the 14 newest examples – designated as the HC6 in UK service - dating from a 2011 order. Eight older, long-range models have been upgraded with new avionics to the HC5 standard.
Earlier this year, Air Cdre Al Smith, capability air manoeuvre at the UK's Joint Helicopter Command, said that procurement of the new helicopters was at an early stage. In addition, he indicated that the UK would likely wait for delivery until the Block II variant of the Chinook was available in around 2023.