The Netherlands is to purchase 14 new Boeing CH-47F Chinook transport helicopters to replace the eleven CH-47Ds currently in Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) service. Details of the planned order were confirmed by Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on September 7 in a letter to the Dutch Lower House.
The new helicopters will join six CH-47F(NL) variants delivered to the RNLAF in 2012, which will be upgraded, although precise details of the modernisation have yet to be determined. Following retirement of the eleven CH-47Ds, his will leave the RNLAF with a fleet of 20 CH-47Fs. Deliveries of the new helicopters will begin in 2019.
Various options had been under consideration for several years regarding the future of the Chinook fleet, with another alternative considered previously being the upgrade of the existing CH-47Ds. This was later rejected in favour of buying an all-new fleet. Earlier this year, on March 19, US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) confirmed that US State Department approval had been granted for a possible purchase of 17 CH-47Fs and that the planned Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal had been notified to Congress. Presumably on cost grounds, the actual buy now announced will be for just 14 helicopters.
The model being purchased for the RNLAF is the standard US Army CH-47F Multi-Year II production model with the digital Common Avionics Architecture System (MYII CAAS) installed. When the decision to buy new CH-47Fs was first made, it was proposed that only eleven were acquired, replacing the existing CH-47Ds on a one-for-one basis. However, the decision last year to go for the standard US Army model, without the additional modifications incorporated in the six previously bought CH-47F(NL) models, has led to considerable cost savings. This has enabled an increase in the number now being bought to 14.
Only minor changes to the basic configuration will be made to the additional CH-47Fs in order to meet Dutch operational requirements. These modifications will be carried out post-production and will include crash-resistant seats in the cockpit, a VHF combat net radio for secure communications with Dutch military units and other elements yet to be determined.
The cost of the new acquisition will be Є838 million, which comes well within the allocated budget of Є915 million. This does not take into account any sales proceeds from disposal of the eleven existing CH-47Ds. In co-operation with Boeing, it is planned to re-use as many components from the CH-47Ds as possible in the new CH-47Fs to give further cost savings. US Army Contracting Command signed the five-year MYII contract on July 29, 2014, covering 155 CH-47Fs for the US Army, plus 60 options for FMS customers. This provides the Netherlands the economies of scale associated with such a large order, considerably reducing the acquisition costs. Alan Warnes