Sold In 1990S; Old Chinooks still in service in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - There was a touch of irony in a recent ceremony at Kandahar Airfield for a Royal Netherlands Air Force helicopter that passed its 10,000th hour of operation. The old workhorse of an aircraft once belonged to Canada until it sold its entire fleet of Chinooks to the Dutch as a cost-cutting effort in the early 1990s.
Now, while Canadian soldiers wait for a squadron of their own new helicopters to airlift them over the bomb-infested roads of Kandahar province, the Dutch are happily using our old fleet.
"Over here I think it's the only helicopter that matters," said Major Remy of the RNLAF who would not give his last name for security reasons.
"I'm not saying that because I do fly the Chinook but everything actually is dependent upon the Chinooks."
The rugged Chinooks are able to lift heavy loads of equipment and troops that otherwise would have to be transported by convoys of armoured vehicles that are attacked with disturbing frequency by insurgents. The majority of Canada's fatalities have been the result of roadside bombs and suicide attacks.
Several federal papers, including the Manley commission report, have strongly pressed the Canadian government for dedicated battlefield helicopters.
However, getting the helicopters is proving problematic. A $4-billion program to buy new Chinooks has been troubled by delays and the government has scrambled to buy six used Chinooks from the U. S. Army, which won't be available until later this year or early 2009.
In the meantime, Canada is taking Poland up on an offer to share two Mi-17 helicopters later this summer to transport troops around the battlefield in Kandahar province.
But the Canadians' first choice would be the Chinook. Maj. Remy knows why.
"It's honestly one of the best helicopters in the world because of its lift capabilities," Maj. Remy said.
Maj. Remy doesn't know how much the Dutch government paid for the aircraft.
Maj. Remy flies an old Canadian Chinook that is particularly revered by Dutch pilots for its stamina. Not only was it celebrated a few weeks ago for flying more than 10,000 hours, it survived a near-disastrous incident over the North Atlantic in 1995 that prompted pilots to paint the name "Red October" on its nose after the movie about a Russian submarine.
This Chinook has otherwise never had a major problem. In fact, all seven of the Chinooks the Mulroney government sold to the Dutch air force are still flying today and are rotated through missions to Afghanistan.
In: Afghanistan, Middle East
Tags: Afghanistan, Canada, Netherlands, Poland, Canadian Forces, Royal Netherlands Air Force, ISAF
Location: Kandahar, Kandahar, Afghanistan (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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