Boeing has started windtunnel tests on a new rotor blade design which it expects to boost the CH-47 Chinook's cargo lift capacity by around 907kg (2,000lb).
"The US Army said we need to increase lift to maintain capability," Mark Ballew, director of rotorcraft business development for Boeing Mobility, said at the ILA Berlin Air Show on 12 September. The service typically adds around 45kg of new equipment weight to the transport helicopter each year, and has funded the enhancement study, he added.
Flight test activities are likely to begin during 2014 using the new rotor design, which introduces a blade twist near the tip. The enhancement should be available as the standard fit for new production aircraft from around 2016, Ballew said, and will also offered as a retrofit option. "We know that most folks are going to want to come back and want those new blades," he said, adding that "a couple of nations" had already shown interest in the modification.
Nineteen nations currently operate models of the tandem-rotor CH-47, the first production example of which was delivered to the US Army in 1962. Boeing expects its lead operator to continue using the type until between 2045 and 2050. But with new contracts still coming in, Ballew believes the design will remain in use even longer. "In 2062 there will still be Chinooks flying. This will be a 100-year helicopter," he claimed.
Boeing will formally deliver its first CH-47F to the Netherlands on 8 October. The nation will eventually field six of the new-generation type.