The UK Ministry of Defence has approved a £90.1 million ($181 million) programme that will enable its eight grounded Boeing CH-47 Chinook HC3 transport helicopters finally to enter service from 2009.

On 16 December Boeing received a £62 million contract for the project, with UK technology house Qinetiq to receive most of the remaining money to cover aircraft modifications and flight-test activities.

The so-called "fix-to-field" work is part of a £235 million package that has already seen the UK acquire six AgustaWestland EH101 transports from Denmark to plug part of its battlefield helicopter shortfall. The MoD signed an initial £6.3 million contract with Boeing last August for the Chinook modifications, which covered aircraft characterisation work and the purchase of long-lead items.

Early estimates had put the cost of the Chinook programme - which will clear the HC3 fleet for use about a decade after their intended entry to service - at £50-60 million.

Meanwhile, the UK has confirmed that it will not be able to provide any military helicopters to support peacekeeping operations in Sudan's Darfur region. The UN recently requested that nations provide a combined 18 transport and six tactical helicopters to help its Darfur mission, but the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office says: "All British helicopters are fully committed to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."


Source: Flight International