Boeing Helicopters intends to select an avionics subcontractor for the $3 billion Chinook Improved Cargo Helicopter (ICH) programme in the next few weeks, following a bidders' conference early in January.

Company sources say that Boeing wants to have identified its avionics provider before the requirements document and engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) are approved. The plan is to have the avionics vendor on the team by 31 March, which is when the US Army expects to have received US Department of Defense approval for the EMD, a 36-month effort.

The US Army plans to upgrade at least 300 ageing Boeing CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters. The remanufactured CH-47ICH will be powered by AlliedSignal T55-714A turboshafts, which offer 22% more power than that of the current -712s. The helicopter modernisation also involves airframe strengthening and a partial digital-cockpit upgrade.

A request for proposals for the cockpit subcontractor was issued in early December, and Boeing Helicopters held a bidders' conference on 14 January.

Funding constraints mean that the CH-47ICH, which will stay in service until at least 2020, will not have a fully digital cockpit. It will incorporate two multi-function displays and an electronic flight-instrumentation system, while using a 1553 databus.

Bidders for the cockpit work are likely to include Honeywell Defense Avionics Systems, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell-Collins, Canadian Marconi and GEC-Marconi.

Honeywell's advanced cockpit-management system, a fully digital glass cockpit, is installed in CH-47Ds sold to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. A version of that cockpit is offered on the export-model CH-47SD. Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, built the digital cockpit in the US Army's MH-47E special-operations helicopter.

Despite the fact that all-glass Chinook cockpits exist, the US Army believes that it will spend less on a partial avionics upgrade development, since non-recurring research-and-development costs will be amortised over a 300-aircraft remanufacturing programme.

Two CH-47Ds will be remanufactured into the new configuration during the EMD. The procurement plan is to modify 26 helicopters a year until 2012. The US Army plans to convert 1,150 -712 engines to -714A standards under a separate contract.

Source: Flight International