Procurement: Chinook Fever


December 17, 2009: Britain is buying another 22 American CH-47F Chinook helicopters, providing the army with 70 of these transport aircraft. The money for this new purchase will come from the budgets of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. This is all because Britain has lost a hundred troops in Afghanistan so far this year, most of them to roadside and suicide bombs. Many of these casualties can be avoided if more helicopters are available. Earlier this year, it was pointed out, in the media, that British troops in Afghanistan had one helicopter for every 700 troops, while the Americans had one for every 200. British commanders admitted that they needed (based on American experience) about fifty helicopters. The British government has promised more, and this latest Chinook order is part of an effort to make it so, at least in the future.

The CH-47 is the best helicopter for use in Afghanistan, having proved itself able to deal with the dust and high altitude operations better than other transport choppers. The CH-47 has been engineered, over the years, to deal with the dust. The first CH-47s entered service in 1962, able to carry only five tons. Current models carry more than twice that. Some 750 CH-47s saw service in Vietnam, and 200 were lost in action.

Between 1982-94, 500 CH-47s were rebuilt to the CH-47D standard. The CH-47F is more durable and easier to maintain than the CH-47D, and most D models will be upgraded to the F standard eventually. Right now, everyone wants more CH-47s (used, refurbs, new, whatever), and there are not enough to go around.

The newly ordered British Chinooks won't begin arriving for another two years, with each one costing about $35 million.



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