Armed Forces - RAF Aircraft - CHINOOK HC4/HC4A/HC5



RAF Chinook helicopter

The Chinook is a tandem-rotored, twin engined medium-lift helicopter and first entered service with the RAF in 1982. It has a crew of four (pilot, navigator and 2 x crewmen) and is capable of carrying 54 fully equipped troops or a variety of heavy loads up to approximately 10 tons.

The triple hook system allows greater flexibility in load carrying and enables some loads to be carried faster and with greater stability.

In the ferry configuration with internally mounted fuel tanks, the Chinook's range is over 1,600 km (1,000 miles). In the medical evacuation role the aircraft can carry 24 stretchers.

RAF Chinook aircraft were upgraded to the HC2 standard between 1993-1996 for some £145 million. The HC2 upgrade modified the RAF Chinooks to the US CH 47D standard. New equipment included infra red jammers, missile approach warning indicators, chaff and flare dispensers, a long-range fuel system, and machine gun mountings. In 1995, the UK MoD purchased a further 14 x Chinooks (6 x HC2 and 8 x HC2a – now Mk3) for £240 million. During 2003 the Chinook Night Enhancement Package (NEP) was installed in the HC2 fleet. The NEP was based upon experience gained during operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and allows Chinook aircraft to operate at night and in very low-light conditions, often at the limit of their capabilities.

RAF Chinook HC2 helicopter at RAF Cosford Air Show

This is a rugged and reliable aircraft. During the Falklands War reports suggest that, at one stage, 80 fully equipped troops were carried in one lift and, during a Gulf War mission, a single Chinook carried 110 Iraqi POWs. The Chinook mid-life update will significantly enhance the RAF's ability to support the land forces during the next 25 years.

Analysts suggest that since 1 April 1990, the RAF Chinook fleet has flown some 60,000 hours during which time the operating costs (personnel, fuel and maintenance) have been £310 million, a figure that results in a cost of about £5,200 per flying hour.

A £62 million contract with Boeing to convert eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters to a support helicopter role was announced by the Ministry of Defence in December 2007. The first helicopters were operational in Afghanistan in 2010.

The RAF currently has a fleet of 46 Chinook delivered between 1981 and 2001 of which we believe 30 are available to the Forward Fleet at any one time. There appear to be plans to procure another 14 Mk 6 aircraft to bring the Chinook inventory up to a total of 60. The purchase cost for 14 x Mk 6 aircraft is £841 million and the first of these aircraft will enter service in May 2014. All 14 aircraft should be fully operational by early 2017.

The most recent upgrade and currently underway is Project Julius. This enhancement introduces an integrated digital ‘glass’ cockpit, moving map tablet and new crewman’s workstation across the whole of the fleet of Chinook helicopters. Pilots will now be able to determine what flight and tactical information is displayed to them at any given time, improving the ergonomics of the cockpit. Under Project Julius HC2/HC2A's are being upgraded to the HC4/HC4A standard, and the HC3's to the HC5 standard. Following the upgrade these aircraft will be better positioned for the switch between Special Forces and Support Helicopter tasks.


Crew 3 - 4
Fuselage Length 15.54m
Width 3.78m
Height 5.68m

Internal Payload

Rotor Diameter 18.29m
Cruising Speed 270kph/158mph
Empty Weight 10,814kg
Service Ceiling 4,270m
Mission Radius (with internal and external load of 20,000kgs including fuel and crew) 55kms
Rear Loading Ramp Height 1.98m
Rear Loading Ramp Width 2.31m

2 x Avco Lycoming T55-712 turboshafts

In service with:

7 Squadron

11 x Chinook HC4/HC4A/HC5

RAF Odiham

18 Squadron

10 x Chinook HC4/HC4A/HC5

RAF Odiham

27 Squadron

9 x Chinook HC4/HC4A/HC5

RAF Odiham

All the above aircraft are under the control of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). Squadron numbers will increase as more aircraft become available.

Photos Copyright Alasdair Taylor