• A Boeing CH-47F Chinook. (Boeing)
    A Boeing CH-47F Chinook. (Boeing)

South Korea looks set to be the next operator of the Boeing CH-47F Chinook, with the country’s defence authorities approving a project to acquire the heavy-lift helicopter. The deal follows the German Government’s announcement in June that it intends to purchase 60 CH-47Fs.

Yonhap News Agency reported that the South Korean Defense Project Promotion Committee approved a 1.4 trillion-won (1.54 billion) project to deploy an unspecified number of CH-47Fs by 2028. The new helicopters will replace South Korea’s current fleet of older Chinooks.

Also approved was a 3.94 trillion-won (US$2.97 billion) plan Friday to acquire a further 20 additional Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters by 2028. This will boost the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) fleet of F-35As to 60 aircraft.

South Korea currently operates a fleet of 30 CH-47D/DLRs, assigned to the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), and 11 HH-47Ds with the ROKAF. The latter are utilised in the transport and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role.

Should the plan to acquire the helicopters be completed, South Korea will join Australia, India and Singapore in the Indo-Pacific region as operators of the CH-47F, which operate 14, 15 and 16 helicopters respectively.

In addition, Japan and Taiwan continue to operate versions of the CH-47D, which are designated locally as the CH-47J/JA and Model 234.

Both Australia and Singapore also have experience in operating older versions of the venerable heavy lift helicopter, having operated the CH-47C/D and D/SD versions respectively.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated 12 (later 11) CH-47Cs between 1973 and 1989, with the Army taking over and upgrading four to CH-47D standard, these entering service in 1995. Two ex-US Army helicopters were acquired in 2000 and another pair in 2012, with the type retiring by 2016 as the CH-47Fs were delivered.

Singapore’s Chinooks also have an Australia connection, being regular visitors to central Queensland for the annual Wallaby exercises held at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area before the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) moved the five CH-47Ds at its Texas-based training detachment to the Oakey Army Aviation Training Centre in 2019. 

The older helicopters at Oakey were replaced by ten of 16 CH-47Fs ordered by the Southeast Asian island state, the first arriving in Australia in May 2021. 

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