The RAF Chinook Display Team, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, aims to demonstrate the RAF Chinook's capability. As well as part of the RAF Chinook Display Team, the crew are also part of a fully operational Squadron where they combine their daily training demands with practising their display sequence.
The Chinook is an extremely capable and highly versatile support helicopter that can be operated from land bases or seaborne vessels into a range of diverse environments, from the Arctic to the desert or jungle. The aircraft may be heavily armed and is fitted with a suite of self-defence equipment allowing it to operate across highly contested battlespace. Chinooks are primarily used for trooping, resupply and battlefield casualty evacuation (casevac) but the crews are trained to accomplish these tasks under threat from both ground and air based enemies.
With its triple-hook external load system, internal cargo winch, roller conveyor fit and large reserves of power, the aircraft can lift a wide variety of complex underslung or internal freight, including vehicles. It can carry up to 55 troops or up to approximately 10 tonnes of mixed cargo.
Its secondary roles include search and rescue (SAR), and supporting a wide variety of specialist tasks, including the National Resilience commitment. A Chinook crew traditionally comprises two pilots and two crewmen, supplemented by specialists dependent upon mission requirements.
In addition to its traditional war fighting roles, the Chinook’s lifting capability is held at readiness under the National Resilience commitment to respond to emergencies in the UK; in recent years these have included resupplying snowbound farmers in Northern Ireland and moving tons of aggregate to help reconstruct flood defences damaged by winter storms.
The current operational Chinook fleet is completing a period of transition into the digital era. Several new-build aircraft have arrived at Mk 6 standard, incorporating both glass cockpit avionics and benefiting from a Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS, pronounced ‘daffics’), which greatly enhances handling and safety, particularly when operating in recirculating dust or snow conditions. Such a leap forward in capability has also enhanced the older Mk 4 aircraft, which have also seen the embodiment of the same systems to establish them as Mk 6As in service. The RAF fleet also incorporates extended-range ‘fat tank’ aircraft, which carry double the fuel load of a standard Chinook. The cockpit and DAFCS upgrades have turned these airframes from what were Mk 3s into the new Chinook Mk 5. The type will continue to play a key role in UK Defence activity, with the Chinook Sustainment Programme aiming to build on the platform’s success; recapitalising existing airframes and extending the capability out to 2040.