Boeing announced the first flight of an upgraded UK Royal Air Force Ch-47 Chinook. It also confirmed that the entire current fleet of 46 UK Chinooks will receive the new cockpit displays and mission avionics, supplied by Thales from its TopDeck range, by 2016. The upgrade also includes more powerful Honeywell T55-l-714A engines, new defensive systems, nose-mounted FLIR and new secure communications. The aircraft are being modified at the Fleetlands facility near Portsmouth operated by Vector Aerospace, which is Boeing’s principal subcontractor for deep support of the UK Chinook fleet.
The modification project includes 38 HC.2/2As (new designation after upgrade HC.4/4A) and eight HC.3s (new designation HC.5). The HC.3s have only just entered service after a multi-year delay caused by the UK’s failure to properly specify a previous avionics upgrade to Boeing. QinetiQ completed a major reversionary process on the HC.3s, including the replacement of more than 100 wiring looms. The HC.3 version was originally intended for use by UK Special Forces, and has the same additional fuselage-mounted fuel tanks as the U.S. Army’s MH-47s.
In 2009, the UK announced plans to buy another 22 Chinooks from the CH-47F production line. That number was later reduced to 12 in the recent UK defense review. Those aircraft will be designated HC.6, and will have the Thales cockpit fitted on the production line, rather than the Honeywell suite that is standard on the US Army’s CH-47Fs.