ROYAL AIR FORCE CHINOOK CAPABILITY ADDED TO IRAQ HUMANITARIAN MISSION DEPLOYMENT
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
14 Aug 14. The UK Government announcement earlier this week that along with Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4 combat jets whose role would primarily be to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions plus the two Lockheed Martin C130J transport aircraft already on station for humanitarian supply relief missions that in addition a small number (thought to total four) Boeing Chinook helicopters would now also be sent out to conduct missions in Northern Iraq is a very correct response to a very urgent crisis requirement.
Whilst it should come as little surprise that UK ‘Special Forces’ are probably also involved in Iraq it is the Royal Air Force and the need for air power capability that is once again taking the lead in the Northern Iraq humanitarian mission.
Thirty-four years since the first Royal Air Force Tornado GR1 combat aircraft entered service with 1X Squadron suffice to say that the final GR4 variant of Tornado remains unsurpassed in terms of true Multi-Role Combat Aircraft capability. Equipped with the RAPTOR Reconnaissance Airborne Pod plus for potential combat the Litening targeting pods Tornado will greatly assist Chinook and C130J crews in their specific humanitarian based mission. With its fantastic and long record of mission success in RAF service the fine qualities of Tornado GR4 in terms of fast jet multi-role capability probably require little additional comment here.
The same may also be said in terms of capability provided by the Royal Air Force fleet of Lockheed Martin C130J aircraft. Long known as the Hercules this aircraft has been around for a very long time and it may be of interest to note that August 23rd will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the first flight of the original Lockheed YC-130 tactical transport aircraft and which was powered by four Allison T56-A-1 turboprop engines. Allison was taken over by Rolls-Royce in 1996 and the company’s engines continue to power the latest C130J variant of this very fine aircraft of which so far over 2,400 examples have been built for the military of seventy nations. A remarkable achievement this certainly is but it is no less significant from another great success story, that of the Boeing Chinook Helicopter which I will concentrate the rest of my attention today.
Designed not only to transport troops, equipment, to search for downed troops in enemy territory and, when natural disaster strikes, to provide rescue assistance the Boeing CH-47 Chinook in its various forms has proved to be single most important element of heavy-lift rotary powered capability for humanitarian, rescue plus immediate response troop and equipment transport. With as many as 1,300 Chinooks so far built and in the service with the military of 24 nations worldwide the Chinook has little more to prove. With a carrying capacity up to 55 troops and if on rescue missions, even larger numbers of people, I suspect that what sets Chinook apart from its peers is that it has a maximum cargo carrying capacity of 12,700 kilograms.
Based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire the Royal Air Force currently operates 46 Chinook helicopters although it is now in the process of receiving the first of an additional batch of 14 new Chinook helicopters ordered by the British Government in 2011 that will take the number operated to 60.
The history of Chinook operation in the Royal Air Force is also worthy of note. Although it had been intended to acquire a batch of fifteen new Chinook’s in 1967 following cancellation of the order to Boeing by the Wilson government it was not until thirteen years later that the first of Chinook heavy-lift helicopters would enter Royal Air Force service. This was the result of an order placed with Boeing in 1978 for a batch of no less than thirty Chinook helicopters many of which aircraft remai