The UK Ministry of Defence said it is investing £400 million to equip Chinook helicopters with defensive systems, and to upgrade the C-17 Globemaster fleet.
UK’s C-17 fleet – which recently played a key role in the UK’s evacuation from Afghanistan – will receive a £324 million investment. This will upgrade software and hardware to improve airlift capability as part of a contract with the U.S. Air Force.
The UK’s fleet of Mk5 and Mk6 Chinook helicopters will be enhanced with defensive systems, as part of a £64 million contract with Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) which will make them harder for adversaries to detect.
The investment builds on commitments outlined in the Defence Command Paper earlier this year, which confirms an operational obligation to both aircraft as part of the Integrated Force 2030 approach. This is further supported by the £24 billion increase in defence spending over the next four years, announced by the Prime Minister in November 2020.
Negotiated by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the five-and-a-half-year C-17 contract will continue the highly-specialised support for the aircraft under the ‘Virtual Fleet’ concept, where all nine operating nations have access to a support solution.
Upgrades will include enhancements to the ‘Beyond Line of Sight’ satellite-enabled communication equipment, a wider field of view via the ‘Head-Up Display’ in the cockpit to help increase pilot situational awareness and widening the scope of the current free-fall parachuting capability.
The five-year Chinook helicopter contract managed by DE&S will see the installation of Infra-Red Suppression Systems (IRSS) across some of the fleet, offering better protection from threats posed by new missile systems using the heat (infra-red) signature of the aircraft to target. IRSS technology will counter with ‘blanking plates’ on the helicopters which mask the hot components and redirect airflow to cool the exhaust gases, making it more difficult to target.