Chinook battles to CSAR-X victory

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Boeing defeats Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky in US Air Force's combat search-and-rescue helicopter contest

Boeing's HH-47 Chinook has won the US Air Force's $10 billion CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue programme, defeating the Lockheed Martin US101 and Sikorsky HH-92. The award is a particular blow to Sikorsky, which also lost the $7 billion VXX US Presidential helicopter contest to the US101 last year.

The initial $712 million contract is for development of the Block 0 CSAR-X, including three test aircraft. These will be followed by 141 production Block 0 HH-47s, all to be modified later to a Block 10 configuration with upgraded rotor system, missiles, stand-off chemical/biological sensors, passive wire detection and avoidance, ballistic projectile approach warning and optical countermeasures. A fourth, Block 10, test aircraft is planned.

Boeing describes the HH-47 - based on the US Army's special-operations MH-47G Chinook - as "Block 0+" because it already has some of the capabilities planned for Block 10, including terrain-following radar. Extra features for Block 0 include blade de-ice, digital automatic flight controls, dual hoist, wirestrike protection and enhanced health and usage monitoring.

Initial operational capability is scheduled for fiscal year 2012 for Block 0 and FY18 for Block 10, with the CSAR-X to achieve full operational capability in FY24. Boeing says the fully crewed and armed Block 0 HH-47 will be able to pick up two downed crewmen at a 555km (300nm) radius. The Block 10 configuration requires increased radius at higher altitude.

The HH-47 was the largest aircraft in the CSAR-X competition, although Boeing was able to demonstrate that it met the 2h disassembly and 3h reassembly requirements for air transportability. Lockheed offered a derivative of the VH-71A Presidential helicopter based on the AgustaWestland EH101, while Sikorsky's HH-92 was based on the MH-92 military derivative of the S-92 under development for the Canadian Forces.

CSAR-X is expected to be followed by the 66-aircraft Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) competition for a medium-lift helicopter to replace USAF Bell UH-1Ns used for VIP transport and missile site protection. CVLSP was envisaged as a less complex version of the CSAR-X, but selection of the HH-47 could result in a new competition.

 
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The HH-47 is based on the US Army's special-operations MH-47G Chinook