Chinook HC.4 operational in AfghanistanThe first upgraded Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook Mk4 helicopters deployed to Afghanistan in late November, less than six months after their introduction to frontline squadrons, it has been confirmed.
Royal Air Force, January 10, 2013 - With an initial release to service granted in May 2012, RAF Chinooks crews were able to begin their operational work-up on the Mk 4 before declaring an initial operating capability in June 2012.
This in turn allowed the first RAF crews to operate the Chinook Mk4 in support of UK security operations during the London Olympics from June to September 2012 prior to preparing for their deployment to Afghanistan.
Under Project Julius, the entire RAF Chinook fleet of 46 aircraft is being upgraded with the Thales digital ‘glass’ cockpit procured through prime contractor Boeing, together with upgraded Honeywell T-55-714 engines.
‘Getting the first Chinook Mk4s into Afghanistan by December 2012 has been the result of a Herculean effort by everyone involved in the Julius programme,’ Group Captain Dom Toriati, RAF Chinook Force Commander and Station Commander RAF Odiham, told Shephard. ‘All the agencies involved in this programme have worked hard to help de-risk and produce a credible support and airworthiness solution which everyone could sign-up to and helped deliver the Chinook Mk4 into theatre.’
Having successfully supported Operation Olympic, Chinook Mk4 crews and engineers could then begin preparations for Afghanistan. This began with UK-based mission specific training, followed by deployment to the US Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, US in October/November to undertake environmental and mission specific training prior to deploying to Afghanistan in late November.
Toriati noted that Project Julius was much more than a glass cockpit but a ‘whole solution’ helping to reduce crew workload and improve flight safety. ‘Project Julius has given us an integrated solution which satisfied the ergonomics and human machine interface (HMI) that the previous analogue cockpit didn’t and also provided a capability we can maintain safely which was one of the key requirements.’
Meanwhile, there are a further 14 new build aircraft known as Mk6 Chinooks currently in production at Boeing and these will also be equipped with the Julius cockpit to bring commonality to the fleet of 60 Chinooks. The first Mk6 Chinook is due to arrive in the UK in late 2013.
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Boeing Chinook HC.4 in Royal Air Force