Following the announcement of a £62m contract in December 2007 between MOD and Boeing that will see the support helicopter force boosted by eight more heavy–lift Chinooks, QinetiQ has received several initial direct MOD contracts that could exceed £5m and has now just signed a sub-contracting deal with Boeing worth around a further £11m to undertake a significant proportion of the modification programme at MOD Boscombe Down on Salisbury Plain.
The eight Chinook Mk 3 helicopters will be reverted to a similar standard to the conventionally instrumented Mk 2/2A. The necessary Test & Evaluation data and comprehensive testing will also be completed earlier in the programme, to enable an early and successful Release to Service (RTS).
The first of these helicopters is expected to be operational in 2009 and all eight converted Chinooks will join the existing fleet of 40 RAF Chinook helicopters currently based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire. The overall cost to the defence budget to modify these helicopters is expected to be £90.1m of which £62m is the contract with Boeing.
"QinetiQ will revert these aircraft in accordance with existing service modifications and Boeing designs plus arrange and conduct, in conjunction with Boeing and nominated sub-contractors, a programme of ground and flight trials to gather the information required for the RTS,” stated Neil Irvine, MD for QinetiQ’s Flight Engineering Services. “We recognise the vital role these aircraft can play in supporting British troops in-theatre and will be pulling out all the stops to then fully test and certify these aircraft and provide the Chinook Helicopter IPT with eight more fully operational helicopters for front line duties just as soon as possible.”
QinetiQ’s schedule of activities to support this reversion modification programme includes conducting the servicing and preparation of the eight aircraft for entry to into the programme and carrying out the aircraft fitting. QinetiQ will also manage the procurement of materials and the logistics coordination plus provide engineering and flight trials instrumentation support to the three active trials aircraft.
Much of the flight trials and validation work will also be done in parallel to the reversion modification programme and includes continuous MOD contracted flight trials during 2008 to assess the aircraft handling and performance characteristics of the Mk 3 `Fat Tank’ Chinook configurations. Additionally QinetiQ will act as Test and Evaluation enabler, under contract to Boeing, to execute a combined trials programme at MOD Boscombe Down for the modified aircraft using two trials aircraft plus act under contract to MOD as Independent Technical Evaluator (ITE) to provide safety case assessment and Release to Service advice to the Chinook IPT using evidence from the planned trials activity.Potential ongoing support to MOD to continue the Test & Evaluation activity for the modified aircraft following their acceptance into service is also a possibility.
“Helicopters play a vital role in supporting our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is why we are taking measures to make more helicopters available to operations as quickly as possible,” recently stated Des Browne, Defence Secretary. “These helicopters will deliver a significant boost to the UK’s operational heavy lift helicopter fleet. Chinooks are a key battle winning capability."
“We were delighted to sign the reversion contract for the Chinook Mark 3 with our industrial partners,” said Chris White-Horn, the Chinook Future Heavy Lift project leader at Defence Equipment and Support. “This was the culmination of a tremendous effort by the joint DE&S and industry project team of which I am very proud. It really shows what can be achieved when all the parties work openly and honestly together to reach a common goal. Now the real challenge begins – to deliver the modified aircraft and make these much-needed helicopters available to support our forces in Afghanistan as soon as possible.”