The US Congress has provided a fillip to the US Army's a ambitions to upgrade at least 300 aging Boeing CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters, by providing additional funding for the project in its proposals for the 1998 budget.

A planned $29 million request from the army for the Boeing CH-47 Improved Cargo Helicopter (ICH) project in the fiscal year 1998 budget was reduced to $3 million by the Department of Defense, but Congress instead boosted the spending figure to $23 million.

A further $26 million is expected to be requested for the project in FY99, and spending appears assured thereafter. An estimated $3 billion is needed to complete the upgrade.

The US Army is expected to approve the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the ICH programme in November. Boeing anticipates having a contract for the EMD phase by March 1998. This stage continues to March 2003, when Boeing will deliver the first of the upgraded Chinooks. The procurement plan is to modify 26 helicopters a year until 2012.

The CH-47ICH will be powered by AlliedSignal Engines T55-GA-714-714A engines, which offer 22% more power than the current -712s.

Two CH-47Ds will be remanufactured into the ICH configuration during the EMD. The ICH is planned to stay in service until at least 2032.

Source: Flight International