‘Re-new’ design Chinook also attracts strong Canadian interest for its heavylift transport requirement
Boeing has started assembling the first new-build CH-47F Chinook under the US Army’s cargo helicopter modernisation programme, marking a key step in a broader renaissance of its 44-year-old production line for the type.
The army intends to procure 513 modernised Chinooks over the next decade, including another 452 CH-47Fs and 61 CH-47Ds rebuilt to MH-47G standard for the US Special Operations Command.
Of this number, 55 of the F-model aircraft will be acquired with all-new airframes and dynamic components, with the remaining 397 to receive new cockpits, fuselages and aft sections, but retain and reuse the rotor systems, transmissions and drive train in a production configuration that Boeing describes as a “re-new” design.
Boeing’s Philadelphia manufacturing facility has been transformed into a lean industrial workplace, reducing costs and creating additional capacity for several other potential orders, the company says.
Canada’s defence ministry has emerged as a potential Chinook buyer, with a new heavylift transport requirement expected to lead to a competitive contract award within 18 months, says Bob Sobey, Boeing’s deputy director for Chinook programmes.
The Chinook will be a strong candidate in Canada’s pending competition, says Sobey, who visited Ottawa last month to stress the CH-47F’s design emphasis on minimising operating costs. Canada sold its D-model Chinook fleet to the Netherlands several years ago after complaining about the high cost of maintenance and operations.
The US Army also is working to complete the first sale of a used D-model Chinook to a foreign military under the Cargo Helicopter Airframe Procurement Support programme. This allows the service to use funds from used Chinook sales to offset the cost of buying all-new F-model aircraft.
Boeing is, meanwhile, preparing the Chinook for a growth programme similar to Sikorsky’s CH-53K upgrade now under contract for the US Marine Corps. The growth version of the Chinook is viewed by army officials as a fallback alternative to the service’s Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) programme, although Sobey says Boeing is “not trying to compete with JHL”. Boeing’s hope is to pitch the development as a future substitute for the CH-47F.
The CH-47F is designed to have a maximum gross weight of 22,700kg (50,000lb), including a payload of up to 7,250kg, although Sobey says the useful payload threshold has been eroded by the need to bulk up the aircraft with ballistic protection material and self-protection equipment weighing about 2,000kg mandated by combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.
By switching to the growth version of the Chinook, the army can regain a 7,250-8,150kg useful payload, he says.
STEPHEN TRIMBLE / PHILADELPHIA