LONDON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Boeing UK Rotorcraft Support team has begun flight testing the first Chinook Mk4 helicopter for the British air force.
The first test, conducted in December, came under Project Julius, a program to modernize the air force's Chinook fleet. The project involves modifying 38 Mk2/2A Chinooks into the Mk4/4A configuration and eight Mk3 Chinooks into the Mk5 configuration.
A major part of the modification for both the Mk4/4A and Mk5 aircraft is the Thales TopDeck cockpit. Thales UK is under contract with Boeing to supply its Cockpit Display System/Mission Avionic System, which will provide improved situational awareness, increased safety and options for capability enhancement.
The upgraded and integrated cockpit display includes four multifunction displays, two stand-by flight displays, updated communications interfaces and two new air data computers.
"The first of the modified Julius Chinook helicopters is expected to be available to commanders before the end of 2011," said David Pitchforth, managing director, Boeing UK Rotorcraft Support. "The entire Mk2 fleet will be fitted with the Julius cockpit by early 2015, followed by Mk2A and Mk3 modifications by 2015 and 2016, respectively."
The aircraft are being modified at the Gosport Fleetlands facility operated by Vector Aerospace, Boeing's principal sub-contractor for deep support of the British air force's Chinook fleet.