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Britain orders 14 Boeing Chinooks in 1bn deal
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Aug 22, 2011

Britain announced Monday it has ordered 14 new Chinook helicopters from US aerospace and defence giant Boeing at a cost of 1.0 billion ($1.65 billion, 1.1 billion euros).

Considered as the Royal Air Force's workhorse, the transport choppers have served in theatres such as the Falklands War, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The versatile heavy lift aircraft can transport up to 40 men or 10 tonnes of cargo.

Britain already has the largest Chinook fleet in Europe and the order will take it to 60 aircraft. All of the 14 new helicopters should be fully operational by 2017.

The Labour government of former prime minister Gordon Brown was dogged by criticism that British forces in Afghanistan did not have sufficient equipment, particularly troop-carrying helicopters that would avoid soldiers having to travel by bomb-laden roads.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition claims it was left a 38 billion "black hole" of unfunded defence spending commitments when it took office.

The government has cut the defence budget by eight percent in a bid to curb Britain's huge deficit.

"We have brought reality to the defence budget and can start signing contracts that will deliver real equipment," Defence Secretary Liam Fox said.

"The previous government promised more Chinooks, but never ordered them and never had the money for them. It was just an aspiration.

"These additional helicopters will significantly enhance our existing heavy lift helicopter capability.

"This fleet will support our frontline troops in current and future operations for decades to come."

The new Mark 6 Chinooks will feature a digital flight control system making them easier to operate in tough conditions, such as the hot and dusty environments encountered in Afghanistan where Britain has 9,500 troops stationed.

The RAF should receive the first aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013 and it should enter service the following year.

Delivery of all 14 helicopters should be complete before 2016. Three should be ready for operational deployment in early 2015 and all 14 should be fully operational by early 2017.

The Boeing deal includes development, manufacture and the first five years of support to the helicopters.

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