My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I announced in March our intention to convert the eight Chinook Mark 3 helicopters to a support helicopter role, in order to make them available to operations as quickly as possible. I am pleased to report that the Ministry of Defence has now signed a contract with Boeing to carry out the modification work. The most likely overall cost to the defence budget to modify the helicopters is £90.1 million, of which £62 million is taken up by the contract with Boeing.
We expect the first aircraft to be available for operations in 2009. These eight additional helicopters will represent a significant uplift to the UK's heavy lift helicopter fleet. As the Chinook fleet has proven on numerous occasions, these helicopters are a key battle-winning capability. The eight converted Chinook will join the existing fleet of 40 RAF Chinook helicopters and will be based at RAF Odiham.