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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK


Chinook: The military workhorse

The distinctive helicopter has been seen in many conflicts

The Chinook, one of the world's biggest helicopters, has become a military workhorse since it was first manufactured for the US army in 1961.

Its distinctive tandem-rotored silhouette has been seen in many recent theatres of war, carrying out tasks such as deploying troops, evacuating refugees and dropping medicine and aid.

More than 600 Chinooks are currently in service internationally, by various countries including the US, the UK, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway and Spain.

[ image: The huge helicopter can carry about 50 people]
The huge helicopter can carry about 50 people
The British RAF has 34 Chinooks, the first of which it received in 1981. The US army has 466.

Ideal people-carriers

The most common model of Chinook is the CH-47D, first manufactured in 1979. The CH-47D can carry loads of up to 1,100kg on board and underneath the fuselage.

At 30m long, with an internal length of 9.3m and height of 2m, the aircraft can carry about 50 people.

It has a range of about 426km, with a cruise speed of 265kmph. It can climb at speeds of 464 metres per minute.

The CH-47D is powered by two engines, but can fly on one.

[ image: It has a range of about 426km]
It has a range of about 426km
Its specifications means the aircraft is ideally suited for carrying troops and supplies in a war situation.

It has also been used extensively for carrying personnel and machinery to off-shore oil platforms.

But its most common contemporary use is for relief missions such as medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and search and rescue.

Not without disaster

In Britain, the helicopters were used most recently in the Kosovo conflict. British Paras and Gurkhas spearheading K-For's push into the region arrived in Chinook and Puma helicopters.

At the end of the conflict, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to the Kosovan capital Pristina from the Macedonian capital Skopje in an RAF Chinook.

[ image: The CH-47D was used extensively in the Gulf War]
The CH-47D was used extensively in the Gulf War
They were also used extensively in the Gulf War, with the US army using 163 CH-47Ds for a total of 16,955 hours flying time during Operation Desert Storm.

However, although the Chinook has helped carry out many peacekeeping missions, it has not been without disaster.

The worst crash of a British-operated Chinook was the Sumburgh disaster off Shetland in November 1986 in which 45 men, mainly oil workers, were killed.

In June 1994, 25 counter-terrorist experts on their way from Belfast to a security conference at an army base near Inverness were killed when their Chinook crashed on the Mull of Kintyre, western Scotland.

An RAF investigation found pilot error to be the cause but claims persist that there may have been technical problems.

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