The UK Ministry of Defence recently announced
that its Chinook helicopter HC3 variants will undergo a £90.1m ($181m)
upgrade. The press release itself is rather brief, but the story in
Flight Global (‘UK signs £90 million deal to fix grounded Chinook helicopters‘)
gives a bit more background. However, to really understand the purpose
of the upgrade, you need to cross-reference information from a number
of sources: Chinook blunder ‘left RAF short’ (BBC News), Wikipedia entry for Chinook HC3, and a UK National Audit Office report (PDF). I’ll leave the political issues well alone, but some of the technical challenges really interest me.
In brief, the HC3 is based on the US Army’s MH-47E Chinook helicopter, but has been customized for use by the UK RAF 7 Squadron
Special Forces flight. The enhancements include improved range, night
vision sensors and navigation capability. However, in order to fit all
of this additional capability into the cockpit, a unique hybrid
digital/analogue avionics system which was reliant on software was employed.