The troubled acquisition by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) of a fleet of CH-47 Extended Range (ER) variants of the US heavy-lift helicopter has continued to drag on into 2024, with the latest update on a decision timetable possibly coming in the next month.

More than two and a half years after the UK was revealed to be intent on the acquisition of 14 new Chinook CH-47ER heavy-lift helicopters, their entry into service is still uncertain pending the outcome of a review being conducted by the UK MoD.

In a 15 February parliamentary written response, James Cartlidge, UK Defence Procurement Minister, stated a review note for the Chinook extended range helicopter programme “is due to be assessed by the Ministry of Defence Investment Approvals Committee in Quarter 1 2024”, which will in turn inform any future decisions in the acquisition.

“As the assessed costs and schedule for the programme are currently under consideration it would be inappropriate to disclose the figures and programme timelines until a full review has taken place,” Cartlidge stated.

Cost spiralling as CH-47 delays continue

Revealed in April 2021, the UK’s acquisition of 14 CH-47ERs would come at a price tag of around £1.4bn ($1.8bn), approximately £100m per airframe, although total costs have since reportedly increased to more than £2bn.

Reported in 2023, the UK agreed to defer the delivery of the helicopters due to financial concerns resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, with a three-year delay approved in order to meet future British Army capability requirements.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

According to official figures published in December 2023, aircraft deliveries are due to start from 2027.

In a written parliamentary answer on 25 May last year, Cartlidge stated the UK “remained committed” to the acquisition the CH-47ER platforms, but that the delivery schedule was “currently subject to review to ensure defence requirements were best met”.

The outcome of the review was due to be presented in a Review Note to the Investment Approvals Committee in late-2023, Cartlidge said at the time.

In October, Cartlidge said that the MoD acknowledged and was “working to resolve” CH-47(ER) cost growth.

Under plans outlined in the earlier Defence Command Paper, the MoD was set to retire the nine oldest airframes, replacing them with the new extended range aircraft. According to official UK figures, as of December 2022 the country’s military operated 59 Chinooks across the fleet.

Cartlidge is due to give a keynote speech at the International Military Helicopter conference in London on 27 February, with the acquisition of CH-47ERs and the planned New Medium Helicopter the primary rotary programmes in the UK’s medium-term planning.

An MoD spokesperson confirmed to Army Technology that the Chinook ER programme was due to be assessed by its Investment Approvals Committee this quarter.

“The assessed costs and schedule for the current programme remain under consideration,” the spokesperson stated.

Washington’s block of UK Nato position threatened CH-47 deal

In 2023, outgoing UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was reported by The Times to have threatened to cancel the Chinook deal, after the US purportedly blocked his aspirations to become the next Nato Secretary General. Instead, the current Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, was persuaded by the US to continue in his port, with a candidate from continental Europe preferred in Washington.

During earlier UK Conservative Party leadership campaigns, Wallace had ruled himself out of becoming party leader, thereby becoming UK Prime Minister, in order to concentrate on his existing position at the MoD.

Former UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who became Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister in October 2022, retained Wallace as Secretary of State for Defence.

Wallace stepped down from the MoD in 2023, succeeded by current incumbent Grant Shapps, and will leave politics at the next General Election, likely to take place in Q4 this year.

This story has been updated to include a response from the UK Ministry of Defence.