The Ministry of Defence say that the UK’s Chinook helicopters will be enhanced with state-of-the-art defensive systems while the RAF’s C-17 Globemaster fleet will receive a software and hardware upgrade.

For C-17, 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 state-of-the-art 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.

According to a news release:

“The RAF will be boosted by an investment of almost £400 million to enhance the capabilities of two of its vital assets – the C-17 Globemaster aircraft and the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. 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 US Air Force. The UK’s fleet of Mk5 and Mk6 Chinook helicopters will be enhanced with state-of-the-art defensive systems, as part of a £64 million contract with Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) which will make them harder for adversaries to detect.”

Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin said:

“Whether evacuating people in Kabul, transporting people to hospital during Covid-19 or providing crucial logistics on the battlefield, the C-17 and Chinook provide an invaluable service to our Armed Forces across the globe. This investment ensures our aircraft are equipped with cutting-edge technology to face a myriad of emerging threats from adversaries.”

You can read more here.

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Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago

I suspect everyone on here will agree that these are some of the most important assets that UK forces have. So any upgrade path is equally vital.

The worry is what happens when the C17 airframe hours are up as the ‘buy more’ option is not available as the line is shut. There we are in US hands.

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

To be fair, its not a matter of US hands, its a matter of purchase power. If we were to order 20 more airframes the production line would be reopenned, but it wouldn’t be econonical to do it for 3. The same would be true if they were built here or anywhere else in the world. Well i guess not strictly true, it could be reoppened for 3 but we might not like the price that would be involved.

Also we gained by the larger US order which meant they were economical to buy in the first place.

Last edited 2 months ago by Steve
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Yes, that is true.

I’d be terrified of the idea of the UK trying to build something like this.

We haven’t done big plane, new builds, for so long.

Dupeche2
Dupeche2
2 months ago

Airbus should be working now to produce an equivalent in the early 2040’s

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
2 months ago

The Americans will also have to replace C17 at some point well in the future. So we will probably tap into that project.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

I agree: hence my comment that we are in their hands….

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago

The US are looking towards a replacement for both their C17 and C130 fleets from around 2040. One of the options under consideration is re-opening the C17 production line, as opposed to a total new design.
We are a long way from that date. So obviously many things could change before then, maybe if it’s not broken there is nothing to fix!!

Monty
Monty
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

New C-17s makes sense for restarted production if nothing practical comes about. The C-5 Galaxy production line was reopened about a dozen years after it was shut down to add 50 new airframes. These were the C-5Bs that have been updated to C-5M now.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

It is all plausible.

I’m just being positive that a great asset is being invested in 🙂

JohninMK
JohninMK
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

The Long Beach C-17 production facility was shut in 2015 and it is unrealistic to think that Boeing would reopen it (at another site perhaps) for anything other than a mega order from the USAF. They did make some extra airframes on spec and I think Qatar had the last of those. We, along with other C-17 users, are in their hands. Stranger things have happened but maybe another C-17 user will buy some of the forthcoming Russian airlifters and put their fleet on the second hand market. They might make a profit given Russian pricing!

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago
Reply to  JohninMK

I believe the idea is/was for the USAF to replace their C17 fleet with new C17s, so yes probably a big order possibly on a 1 for 1 basis. Much cheaper I imagine then a totally new design/build.
If that were the case, then we would be in a position to piggy back that order.
Alternatively we could go down said route (Ukraine builds the big Antonov heavy lifters). As you say., all things are possible, especially as we are pursuing close ties with the Ukraine……

JohninMK
JohninMK
2 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Knowing defence contractors there would be a juicy R&D element in a C-17B or whatever to bring it up to date and replace unavailable items, maybe even the engines. As to Antonov, its now a shell of what it used to be and even sold off most of its R&D plus an airframe to the Chinese, I doubt it could make anything now as its likely most of their key staff are now working for Ilyushin having fled to Russia. Ukraine itself is bankrupt so close ties bring to mind the words barge pole in a phrase.

magwitch
magwitch
1 month ago
Reply to  Deep32

An-124 line has been closed for 15 years.

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  magwitch

Yes, someone else has mentioned as much, but ta.

Tman
Tman
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Boeing issued stop orders for some long lead parts all the way back in 2006 and the factory itself was shuttered in 2015/16 and then completely sold off a couple of years ago. It would take a significant effort to restart the line without a very large order. I would guess it would need to be significantly larger than just 20 aircraft. All those long lead items need to be contracted several years in advance. Only the needs of US itself could generate such an order but they already have excess airframes for their needs. I don’t think you’ll see… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
2 months ago

Great news, and that’s a pretty sizable chunk of money. Fantastic assets, and well worth the investment.

Reaper
Reaper
2 months ago

How about order more C17s or then again why not keep c130s in the fleet.

Tams
Tams
2 months ago
Reply to  Reaper

The C130 is getting really long in the tooth. The A400M is all around a better aircraft (due to being modern and just bigger), even if in some very niche areas a C130 is better.

Having three heavy transport airframes to support is just a bit much. Two is a good amount. And the C17 and A400M combo means we have good integration with both the US and Europe (plus more as the A400M is proving quite popular for its price range).

Reaper
Reaper
2 months ago
Reply to  Tams

We should keep some c130js for SF operations.

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Reaper

Why the Army doesn’t want to pay for its capabilities, RAF wants rid and use the funds for further A400s

eclipse
eclipse
2 months ago
Reply to  Tams

We’re only getting 22 A400M. That puts us far behind what the french are getting.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  eclipse

The French dont have C17 or Chinook helos which is why the RAF has been providing heavy lift and in theater heavy lift helo support to French Forces in Mali.

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  eclipse

French not paying full price for there’s, the state-owned company builds them.

Selling the 14 C130js and the remaining spares which are currently selling @ £50m + a pop.

the 10 shorts were sold 5 to Bangladesh, 1 to the USA, 3 to Bahrain, and 1 is unknown, for a total of £650m in 2018.

JustaGuy
JustaGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  Tams

The A400M is no way better. Its a barely serviceable white elephant. At least 5 airframes at Brize are long term U/S. They are a poorly designed ill thought out bad aircraft. The C130 is a superb work horse and proven platform. We should be spending money to replace our 14 older C130s with newer C130 J from the United States. These could then support continuing SF operations around the world.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  JustaGuy

Agree 100% on Herc, at least retaining what we have if not buying more.

As for Atlas, I think SR might have a few things to say about whether it is a white elephant or badly designed bad aircraft.

Considering he brought the aircraft into RAF Service.

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  JustaGuy

its a design some 50 years old, How old is your family car. ????? everything comes to an end, A400s not great but it took the HERC 50 years to become great.
Herc is no longer big enough for heavy lift as most modern kit doesn’t fit,
S/F doesn’t want to pay for the herc, reduced service costs means and resale of hercs increase in numbers of A400s.

its like triggers broom, 9 new handles and 12 new heads.

Deep32
Deep32
2 months ago
Reply to  Tams

The C130 flt has just gone through a £300 odd million upgrade to push their OSD past 2035, thats what we are throwing away by retiring them early!!

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Deep32

No there value on the resale market, due to that upgrade as there price of 2nd hand is around the £50m a pop. the 10 shorts were sold in 2018 for £650m plus spares

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  Johan

Wasn’t aware of resale value ta, thought we were giving them away for peanuts as is our norm. 👍

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Reaper

C130s were a stopgap, until A400s came on stream, while a great Aircraft they are as a heavy lift Too small.
RAF doesn’t want them anymore, and their current 2nd hand value is close to the new price.
as the RAF fleet had their wing boxes replaced in 2014.
another nail is Army won’t pay for the role of the Special forces anymore. The Shorts are all but retired and the 14 remaining could sell for £50m a pop.

These funds could be used to secure 4 further A400ms

but dont quote me

Joe16
Joe16
2 months ago

I hope we’re not paying extra for that parachuting capability with the C-17s and it just came as part of the package. I am all for upgrading these hugely important enablers, but I just don’t see that particular capability as very helpful. I would be happy to be shown to be wrong, but I can think of better uses for money than that particular upgrade option…

Ron
Ron
2 months ago

Off subject I know but I have just been reading that RR and Babcobk are to sell there shares in the RAF tanker fleet to Equitix investment management. That is about 38% of the overall holding for a sum of £315million. What will that mean for our Voyager fleet, will this investment management company sell this on? Would it not be a good idea to use some of the MoD budget to buy up these shares.

JohninMK
JohninMK
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Its a standard financing transaction on existing aircraft with known returns that banks love providing the money for, won’t affect operations and is only a part funding. Babcock are retaining the key contract that covers operating.

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron

don’t forget Airbus is the major shareholder, @ 40%

RR and Babcock are 33.33% combined,

Chobham and Thales are the other 26.66.

this is a fixed contract that works so there is no concerns as the Voyager fleet is owned and operated and maintained by Air Tanker.

there is no gain in using MOD funds to buy into the company as you take on the risk

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago

There are two models of infrared suppression system (IRSS) for the Chinook. Both of which are attached to the exhaust of the engines. https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTHc7mG5NgvlTYCkdVuCQK87GEgoGdyP691V8AsLCFDpCy-hCjBUjpVHVu8EcpreZW7ngM&usqp=CAU ?fit=600%2C341&ssl=1&w=800 Both draw in cooler air and then mix it with the exhaust air.They do dramatically lower the IR plume generated by the engine. But IRE missiles using imaging infrared (IIR) sensors are not really interested in the hot plume, but more the overall contrast against the sky’s background. They will also need to hid the gearbox coolers and somehow drop the blade leading edge temperatures to significantly alter the overall IR signature. The IRSS will… Read more »