The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, today announced that the Government has given second pass approval to a major project to acquire seven CH-47F Chinook helicopters for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) at a cost of around A$755 million.
“The Government has now approved the details of this procurement, announced in last year’s White Paper, which will replace the existing fleet of six CH-47D Chinooks,” Senator Faulkner said.
“These new helicopters will give the ADF a robust, deployable medium-lift helicopter capability out to 2040.”
Senator Faulkner described the existing Chinook helicopters as the mainstay of the ADF’s deployable medium-lift helicopter capability. He said the Chinook was an exceptionally versatile aircraft, capable of performing a wide range of roles, including moving combat units into battle, carrying out frontline aero-medical evacuation and performing a vital role in disaster relief.
Senator Faulkner said that while the existing fleet of ‘D’ model Chinooks had provided outstanding support to the ADF since entering service in 1995, the aircraft faced increasing capability and support issues and had been replaced in production by the new ‘F’ model.
“Capability and support issues in the current Chinook helicopters will be addressed with the acquisition of the new model aircraft, which will bring safety, supportability and operational benefits to the ADF,” Senator Faulkner said.
The CH-47F offers a range of improvements over the CH-47D including a strengthened airframe, to reduce airframe fatigue; significantly improved deployability; and digital systems supporting safer flying.
Senator Faulkner said the new aircraft will be procured and maintained in the same broad configuration as the United States Army Chinooks, the principal CH-47F operator. This will provide enhanced benefits to the ADF in areas including spares, support, training and airworthiness.
The Government will consider whether to participate in the United States Chinook Product Improvement Program when information on this program is of second pass quality. Participation in this program would align the configuration of Australian Chinooks with future United States Army Chinooks.
“The new Australian Chinooks will also receive some additional ADF-specific equipment to meet certain operational and safety requirements,” Senator Faulkner said.
The new aircraft will be procured under Project AIR 9000 Phase 5C. They will be based at Townsville, where the existing CH-47D are operated by ‘C-Squadron’ of Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment. The first two aircraft are planned to enter service in 2014, with all seven in service by 2017.
“As with the current Chinook fleet, Australian industry will have the opportunity to support the new helicopters as part of through-life support arrangements,” Senator Faulkner said.