Are we about to make a decision on the UK’s planned CH-47ER purchase?

The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD)’s troubled acquisition of a fleet of CH-47 Extended Range (ER) variants of the US heavy lift helicopter has continued into 2024, with the latest update on the timing of a decision likely to come next month.

More than two and a half years after the UK’s intention to acquire 14 new Chinook CH-47ER heavy lift helicopters was revealed, their entry into service remains uncertain pending the outcome of a review being conducted by the UK Ministry of Defence.

In a written parliamentary reply on February 15, James Cartlidge, the UK’s Defense Secretary, said a review note for the Chinook Extended Range Helicopter program “will be assessed by the MoD Investment Approvals Committee in Q1 2024”, which will turn inform any future decisions about the acquisition.

“As the estimated cost and schedule for the program is currently under review, it would not be appropriate to disclose program details and schedules until a full review has taken place,” Cartlidge said.

Costs rise as CH-47 delays continue

Revealed in April 2021, the UK’s acquisition of 14 CH-47ERs would be priced at around £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion), around £100 million per aircraft, although the total cost has since reportedly risen to over £2bn.

As reported in 2023, the UK agreed to delay the delivery of the helicopters due to financial concerns arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, with a three-year delay approved to meet the UK military’s future capability requirements.

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According to official figures published in December 2023, aircraft deliveries are to start from 2027.

In a written parliamentary reply on May 25 last year, Cartlidge said the UK “remained committed” to acquiring the CH-47ER platforms, but that the delivery timetable was “currently subject to review to ensure defense requirements were best met”. .

The outcome of the review was due to be presented in a Review Note to the Investment Approvals Committee in late 2023, Cartlidge said at the time.

In October, Cartlidge said the MoD had recognized and was “working to resolve” the CH-47(ER) cost increase.

Under plans outlined in the previous Defense Administration document, the State Department was to retire the nine older aircraft, replacing them with the new extended-range aircraft. According to official UK figures, as of December 2022 the country’s military operated 59 Chinooks across the fleet.

Cartlidge is due to give a keynote address at the International Military Helicopter Conference in London on February 27, with the acquisition of the CH-47ER and the planned New Medium Helicopter the main rotational programs in the UK’s medium-term planning.

At the time of going to press, the UK Foreign Office had not responded Army TechnologyRequest for comments on the current status of the CH-47ER acquisition.

Washington block on UK’s NATO seat threatens CH-47 deal

In 2023, outgoing UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace mentioned The times to have threatened to cancel the Chinook deal, after the US reportedly blocked his ambitions to become the next NATO Secretary General. Instead, the current Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, was persuaded by the US to continue in his home port, with a candidate from continental Europe preferred in Washington.

During previous United Kingdom Conservative Party leadership campaigns, Wallace had ruled himself out of becoming party leader, thereby becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in order to focus on his existing position at the Foreign Office.

Former UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who became leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister in October 2022, retained Wallace as Defense Secretary.

Wallace resigned from the MoD in 2023, succeeded by current incumbent Grant Shapps, and will leave politics at the next general election, likely to be held in the fourth quarter of this year.

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