THE Defence Secretary flew into RAF Odiham this morning to unveil the first of the new Chinooks.

Philip Hammond arrived at the north Hampshire airbase to have a close look at an Mk6 Chinook, one of 14 expected to be delivered by June 2015.

It means the base will have up to 60 Chinooks in a year - the largest fleet in Europe.

Mr Hammond told The Gazette that the new Chinook contains technology that will make it better at low-level flying than existing models, including a new auto-pilot feature.

He said: “It is a brilliant, fantastic aircraft.

“The Mk6 delivers capability that the Mk4 could not. I think it underscores the commitment we have to RAF Odiham as home of the helicopter force. This is the base of the joint helicopter command and it will continue to be so.”

The first new Chinook arrived at the end of the last year, and there are now three at the north Hampshire airbase undergoing modifications.

Group Captain Richard Maddison, station commander at RAF Odiham, told The Gazette that there will be an small increase in the number of personnel who will work with the new aircraft.

A training simulator could also arrive in the next four to five years, he said.

He added: “I think we are all excited to have the new aircraft.

“It has most advanced technology which in turn will make it the safest (Chinook) so we are really happy to have it here.”