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RAF Chinook

The Chinook is a tandem-rotored, twin engined medium-lift helicopter and first entered service with the RAF in 1982. It has a crew of four (pilot, navigator and 2 x crewmen) and is capable of carrying 45 fully equipped troops or a variety of heavy loads up to approximately 10 tons. 

The first Chinooks entered service with the RAF in 1982. The triple hook system allows greater flexibility in load carrying and enables some loads to be carried faster and with greater stability. 


In the ferry configuration with internally mounted fuel tanks, the Chinook's range is over 1,600 km (1,000 miles). In the medical evacuation role the aircraft can carry 24 stretchers.

RAF Chinook aircraft have recently been upgraded to the HC2 standard. The first of the 32 aircraft being upgraded was delivered to the RAF in the Spring of 1993, with the remaining aircraft delivered during 1996. The HC2 upgrade, for which a total of £145 million was allocated, allows for the aircraft to be modified to the US CH-47D standard with some extra enhancements. These enhancements include fitting infra-red jammers, missile approach warning indicators, chaff and flare dispensers, a long-range fuel system and machine gun mountings.

This is a rugged and reliable aircraft. During the Falklands War reports suggest that, at one stage, 80 fully equipped troops were carried in one lift and, during a Gulf War mission, a single Chinook carried 110 Iraqi POWs. The Chinook mid-life update will significantly enhance the RAF's ability to support the land forces during the next 25 years.

Analysts suggest that since 1 April 1990, the RAF Chinook fleet has flown some 60,000 hours during which time the operating costs (personnel, fuel and maintenance) have been £310 million, a figure that results in a cost of about £5,200 per flying hour. 

On average, 27 of 31 aircraft have been available for front-line service at any one time, a figure reflecting the need for planned maintenance and servicing. On 9 March 1995, the UK MoD announced a purchase of a further 14 x Chinooks and a separate buy of 22 x EH 101 (Merlin) . The contract for the 14 x Chinooks was signed in early September 1995 at a price of £240 million (US$365), resulting in a possible unit cost of £17 million per aircraft.

During 2003 the Chinook Night Enhancement Package (NEP) was installed in the HC2 fleet. The NEP was based upon experience gained during operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and allows Chinook aircraft to operate at night and in very low-light conditions, often at the limit of their capabilities.

HC2 aircraft are due to be phased out during 2010 and HC2A aircraft in 2015.

The RAF awaits the delayed entry into service of eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters configured for special operations. Reports in late 2006 indicated that the Defence Aviation Repair Agency is likely to receive a contract to install the Thales ‘Top Deck’ avionics system on the Chinook HC3s. If and when the HC3s enter service they will join 7 Squadron at RAF Odiham. The programme is likely to cost between £50 to £60 million.

Crew 3 - 4
Fuselage Length 15.54m
Width 3.78m
Height 5.68m

Internal Payload 

Rotor Diameter 18.29m
Cruising Speed   270 k/ph/158mph
Empty Weight 10,814kg
Service Ceiling 4,270m
Mission Radius (with internal and external load of 20,000kgs including fuel and crew) 55kms
Rear Loading Ramp Height 1.98m
Rear Loading Ramp Width 2.31m

2 x Avco Lycoming T55-712 turboshafts


In service with:

7 Squadron

5 x Chinook HC2

RAF Odiham

18 Squadron

18 x Chinook HC2

RAF Odiham

27 Squadron (R) (OCU)

10 x Chinook HC2

RAF Odiham

78 Squadron

1 x Chinook HC2

RAF Mount Pleasant

All the above aircraft are under the control of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC).

Photo Copyright Alasdair Taylor


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