LONDON – Britain’s Ministry of Defence has announced contracts to enhance capabilities and support for its Boeing-built C-17 Globemaster airlifter and CH-47 Chinook fleets just ahead of the opening of the DSEI defense equipment show at London’s Excel Exhibition Centre on Sept 14.

The total investment announced by the MoD Sept 12 comes to some £400 million ($550 million), with the bulk of the spending plans going towards software and hardware upgrades of the Royal Air Force’s eight-strong fleet of C-17 strategic airlifters.

In a second pre-DSEI contract announcement involving the MoD, BAE Systems said it had secured a deal valued at more than £220 million ($300 million) to deliver advanced synthetic training for pilots flying the Typhoon combat jet.

The £324 million ($450 million) C-17 spending package will include enhancements to the beyond-line-of-sight, satellite-enabled communication equipment; a wider field of view via the head-up display to enable increased pilot situational awareness; and widening the scope of the current free-fall parachuting capability.

The five-and-a-half-year deal continues the support arrangements for the aircraft under a scheme where nine C-17 operating nations have access to a common support solution, including items like spares, design services, and maintenance enhancement as part of a contract with the U.S. Air Force.

Mid-year the British announced the extension of a synthetic training services deal with Boeing to undertake C-17 aircrew and engineering training support in the UK. Boeing has been providing the training capability under the arrangement for the British since 2014.

The future of the RAF’s C-17 fleet had been the subject of speculation ahead of the publication of the British government’s Integrated Review on defense, security and foreign policy, published earlier this year.

In the event the MoD opted to axe earlier than planned the fleet of Hercules C-130J tactical airlifters it uses mainly for special forces missions. That’s a decision that drew sharp criticism here, most recently due to its performance during the evacuation from Afghanistan.

The C-17, which celebrated 20 years service with the RAF earlier in 2021, also played a key role in the evacuation.

Alongside the C-17 upgrade the MoD also announced it was installing infra-red suppression systems (IRSS) on some of the British Chinook Mk 5 and Mk6 fleets as part of a £64 million improvement program.

The IRSS will enhance defensive systems capabilities against threats posed by new missile systems targeting the aircrafts’ infra-red signature.

In a statement announcing the deal with Boeing Defence UK, the MoD said: “IRSS technology will counter with ‘blanking plates’ on the helicopters, which mask the hot components and redirect airflow to cool the exhaust gases, making it more difficult to target.”

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said: “Whether evacuating people in Kabul, transporting people to hospital during Covid-19 or providing crucial logistics on the battlefield, the C-17 and Chinook provide an invaluable service to our Armed Forces across the globe.”

“This investment ensures our aircraft are equipped with cutting-edge technology to face a myriad of emerging threats from adversaries,” said Quin.

In May this year Britain announced it was buying 14 new, extended-range Chinooks in a £1.4 billion ($2 billion) deal with deliveries extending over a decade.

The Integrated Review said Britain would be standing down some of its older Chinooks but did not give firm numbers or a timetable for the move.

The deal with BAE to lead work on the Typhoon Future Synthetic Training program will involve the delivery of 10 high-fidelity, immersive simulators together with state-of-the-art training facilities at the RAF Typhoon bases at Coningsby and Lossiemouth.

The contract award follows two previous deals with BAE over the last 18 months as part of the program.

BAE said in a statement Sept. 13 that the target initial operating capability is set for RAF Coningsby in late 2022.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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