On 22 November 1980, the first Chinook was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF). 40 years later, this iconic twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter continues to play an unmatched and unique role in defence missions at home and abroad. Flown by the RAF and tasked by Joint Helicopter Command, the Chinook Force has deployed around the world, including the Falklands, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently supporting French forces in Mali with logistics and moving troops.
At home, the Chinook is called upon for humanitarian missions. Chinooks were used in the UK government’s Covid-19 response and to support the efforts to save the town of Whaley Bridge from flooding in 2019. More than 450 people are employed across the UK to maintain and upgrade the RAF’s fleet of 60 helicopters.
This significant milestone of 40 years of RAF service is being recognised by the RAF Stations and Squadrons that operate the iconic aircraft ahead of celebrations expected in May 2021.
As mentioned, since the Falklands War in 1982 the Chinook has been involved in every major conflict, seeing action in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan where it conducted the Medical Emergency Reaction Team role collecting injured personnel from the battlefield.
It has also been supported numerous humanitarian missions including the Pakistan Earthquake, evacuation of British citizens from the Lebanon and the recent disaster relief in the Caribbean. In addition to a presence in the Middle East, the RAF currently deploys the Chinook and its supporting personnel to Mali supporting the French Op BARKHANE.
During its service the Chinook has been seen supporting communities all over the country, delivering aid and fuel to snowbound locations in the North of England, providing flood relief in Lincolnshire as well as protecting communities in Whaley Bridge. Over its 40 years of service the Chinook has made an immeasurable contribution to the Service and to the UK as a whole.
Developed by Boeing more than 50 years ago the H-47 Chinook has been providing reliable, medium-to-heavy lift capability for 20 defence forces around the world. Today the RAF Fleet of 60 Chinooks supports more than 450 highly skilled jobs across the UK, with Boeing engineers operating alongside the RAF on the front-line fleet as well as at Gosport and MOD Boscombe Down providing depth maintenance and upgrade programs.
“For 40 years, the Chinook has played a vital role in the UK’s defence capability supporting our people at home and abroad. We are proud to mark this anniversary in our 80 year partnership with the UK,” said Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK. “The Chinook is a multi-role helicopter that transports troops, defence equipment and fuel, it is also key to disaster-relief operations at home and overseas and it plays a major role during times of national crisis.”
Time line of Chinook in the UK
1978 – The Ministry of Defence orders the Chinook for the RAF.
November 1980 – The first RAF Chinook arrives in the UK.
April 1982 – Four Chinooks deploy to the Falklands Islands. Three are lost onboard the MV Atlantic Conveyor after it was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile and Bravo November is the only surviving aircraft to return to the UK.
1984-1986 – Eight more Mk1s are delivered to the RAF with upgrades to engines and cockpits.
January 1991 – The Chinook becomes a vital transit tool during the Gulf War.
1993-1999 – The Mk2 comes into service and sees extensive service in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.
June 1999 – The Chinook transports troops to join NATO forces serving in the Balkans.
Early 2000s – The Mk3 comes into service intended for a variety of specialist operations.
March 2002 – Chinooks based in northern Afghanistan undertake humanitarian relief flights, following an earthquake.
May 2002 – Chinooks carry out first British troop insertion at Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan and undertakes continuous deployment on Op HERRICK until 2014.
October 2005 – When an earthquake hits Pakistan, Chinooks are deployed for a bespoke disaster relief operation.
May 2006 – A 34-year agreement for Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) is signed between Boeing and the RAF.
December 2008 – The fleet begin Project Julius, a glass cockpit upgrade to bring them up to Mk4 and Mk5.
December 2015 – RAF takes final delivery of 14 Mk6 with the Boeing DAFCS, which revolutionises the Chinook capability and takes the fleet to 60.
March 2016 – The Boeing site in Yeovil, Somerset, is named Piasecki House, after the innovator of the Chinook design.
August 2019 – Chinook Force is called upon to join the efforts to save the town of Whaley Bridge from flooding.
2020 – future
March 2020 – Chinook is tasked with moving people and supplies across the UK in support of the fight against Covid-19.
April 2020 – Chinook is recognised for its work at Whaley Bridge by the Vertical Flight Society.
November 2020 – Boeing and Royal Air Force partnership marks 40 Years of Chinook flying in the UK.
Early 2021 – The DAFCS upgrade, the most in-depth and complex aviation modification performed to date by Boeing colleagues in the UK on the RAF’s Chinook Force, is due to complete.
CH-47 Chinook Bravo November
ZA718, or ‘Bravo November’ (BN718) as it was known, is one of the original Chinooks ordered by the RAF in 1978. Arriving in the UK in 1980, the aircraft came to prominence during the Falklands conflict in 1982, and was nicknamed ‘The Survivor’. It was one of four Chinooks that were on the MV Atlantic Conveyor, which was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile on 25 May 1982. When the missile struck, Bravo November was on a test flight and was able to divert and land on HMS Hermes. The other three Chinooks went down with the ship.
Four of its pilots have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. It’s been upgraded several times by the UK team and remains in service today. These upgrades and modifications have kept Bravo November resilient and serving on the frontline for 40 years.