Boeing Eyes another Sales Victory as U.K. FMS Request for H-47 Chinook Cleared

The United Kingdom is aiming to procure 16 new H-47 Chinook extended range heavy-lift helicopters from Boeing under the U.S. government-to-government foreign military sales (FMS) channel. An FMS request valued at $3.5 billion for this acquisition has been cleared by the U.S. State Department with certification notifying Congress delivered by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on October 19.

The FMS request includes elements – such as extended range (“fat tank”) fuel tanks, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turrets, multimode radars, missile warning systems and radio-frequency countermeasures – utilized on the U.S. Special Forces’ MH-47G variant of the Chinook.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) fields a fleet of 60 Chinooks in HC4, HC5 and HC6 standards. The 38 units in HC4 configuration are currently undergoing an upgrade process to bring them up to a new HC6A standard (equivalent to the U.S. Army’s CH-47F standard with U.K.-specific modifications added).

The FMS request appears to serve as a longer-term replacement for the eldest HC4 Chinooks received in the early 1980s rather than an augmentation of the existing 60-unit fleet. The new models are likely intended for special operations missions.

Interestingly however, the request for 16 Boeing helicopters comes at a time British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson has come under fire from the U.K. parliamentary Defense Committee for supposed favoritism towards the American aerospace and defense giant.

The Royal Air Force recently announced plans to procure the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft to replace its legacy Sentinel fleet under a sole-source contract, much to the consternation of lawmakers who viewed such a high-cost contract (expected to be five aircraft at over $2 billion) as more conducive to the competitive tendering process.

Added to their concern is that Boeing secured a roughly $4 billion sole-source contract for Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol airraft on July 11, 2016, at the Farnborough Air Show.  Together with a 50-unit AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter procurement announced that same day for $2.3 billion the British Ministry of Defense will have ordered nearly $12 billion worth of aviation hardware from Boeing if a Wedgetail deal proceeds as expected.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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