The United Kingdom has opted not to complete development of the special-operations capabilities of eight HC 3 Chinooks but convert them to a battlefield utility configuration.
The U.K.’s defense procurement minister, Lord Paul Drayson, surprised many people in scuttling an agreement reached late last year under which Boeing teamed with Thales to install the latter’s TopDeck avionics suite on the Chinooks. The eight aircraft have been grounded since their acquisition in 2001 over concerns about certification of their flight software as safe. Thales officials were confident they could gain certification swiftly for TopDeck. But the United Kingdom needs vertical-lift capacity badly. In April, it agreed to buy six EH101s from the Royal Danish Air Force as a near-term solution to its vertical-lift shortfall.
Under the new plan, Boeing will stay as the prime contractor, tasked with figuring out how to get the Chinooks fielded in a configuration closer to the U.K. HC 2 Chinooks now flying in Iraq. Those aircraft have "steam gauge" instead of glass cockpits, which simplifies the software certification issue. The eight Chinooks will retain their large fuel tanks, which carry 1,000 gal more fuel and add about 2 ft to the width of the aircraft.