UNITED KINGDOM SERVICE
“THE CHINOOK BECAME THE DEFINING IMAGE OF THE UK COMMITMENT IN AFGHANISTAN”
The UK’S final decision to purchase CH-47S didn’t come until 1978. Just over ten years earlier, in March 1967, an order was placed to replace the Bristol Belvedere, but the UK decided to cancel the contract just six months later due to extensive lobbying from UK manufacturers. The initial 33 Chinook HC1S, based on the CH-47C version with some elements of the Canadian version, entered service in late 1980 at RAF Odiham, just in time to be used in action during the Falklands War in 1982.
Four Chinooks were sent on the British merchant ship SS Atlantic Conveyor. However, three were lost when the ship was hit by an Exocet air-to-surface missile on 25 May 1982. Luckily CH-47 ZA718 ‘Bravo November’ was away from the ship at the time of the attack, resupplying British ships. Bravo November continued in the war as the sole available heavy lift-helicopter, surviving a night time inadvertent ditching (during which the co-pilot got as far as jettisoning his door to escape before the aircraft lifted clear) and flying way in defiance of routine maintenance protocols.
During the Falklands War, the British Army captured an Argentine CH-47 (using the door to stop BN’S co-pilot getting cold) and this was brought back to the UK to be used as a training device and eventually donating its rear fuselage to repair Chinook ZA704 following a night dust landing accident in Oman.
In addition to the Falklands campaign, RAF Chinooks have also seen extensive service, including peace-keeping commitments in the Balkans, counter-terrorism in Northern Ireland and action in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While deployed during the Afghanistan conflict the RAF CH-47 became a valuable asset, becoming well known for its emergency response role, in which the rear of the aircraft became an emergency operating theatre. In many ways, as the UH-1 ‘Huey’ came to symbolise the US war in Vietnam, the Chinook became the defining image of the UK’S commitment in Afghanistan.
RAF Chinooks have received extensive upgrades over their operational life and have also received dozens of capability upgrades during operations thanks to the Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) process. Many of these fits are short term, others remain sensitive. Some persist on the aircraft and are fitted fleet-wide.
A Royal Air Force crew demonstrates considerable teamwork in balancing over 16 tons of Chinook on a concrete block during a handling exercise
A pair of RAF CH-47 fitted with the Titan 385ES-HD Multi-sensor Turret System operate on the vast Salisbury Plain Training Area in the UK. The Titan 385ES-HD Multi-sensor Turret System combines high performance sensors into a single Line Replaceable
Unit (LRU) solution, to meet the operational demands of today’s airborne observation, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements
RAF Chinook ZD574 flies the Mach (Machynlleth) loop in Wales. The Mach loop is a series of mountain valleys where pilots can hone their low-level tactical flying skills