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The Sea King HC4, as operated by the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) was, until recently, only able to operate effectively at low altitudes, a profile adequate for supporting amphibious commando missions. Until now, the helicopter's limited flight envelope had, however, prevented it from playing a major role in the Afghanistan campaign.

A significant upgrade package has now been implemented on the Royal Navy's fleet of HC4s. A new set of composite main rotors, made by US firm, Carson Helicopters, together with a new 5-bladed tail rotor assembly, made by AgustaWestland, have enabled the Sea King HC4 to fly at high altitudes and in high temperatures, making them capable of operating in Afghanistan.

The new rotor system produces over 2000lbs of increased maximum hover mass and a 49 knot increase of forward air speed at high altitude. In September, 2007 846 NAS of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) tested several modified HC4s above the mountains of Cyprus, where conditions are similar to Afghanistan, with encouraging results.

846 NAS deployed as part of 52 Infantry Brigade in October 07. Elements of 845 NAS , 846 NAS and 847 NAS of the CHF will be deploying to Afghanistan in the next roulement, April 08, as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Watch video of 846 testing the new rotors in Cyprus:

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