Boeing is considering the growth development of the new CH-47F Chinook Improved Cargo Helicopter (ICH) in response to a Franco-German emerging requirement for a future heavylift machine. Meanwhile, the US Army continues to size up its longer-term needs for a Future Transport Rotorcraft (FTR).

France and Germany have awarded Boeing a study contract to examine an enlarged main cabin for the Chinook, big enough to internally accommodate up to three small vehicles. The company is also looking at other options, including re-engining, switching to four-blade tandem rotors, using a new transmission and remanufacturing fuselage sections 43 and 46, according to Pete Parson, Boeing Chinook programme director.

Watching closely is the US Army, which has a requirement for an FTR pencilled in for 2015-20. The army is looking for transport capable of lifting up to 20t, pointing to a possible tilt-wing or tilt-rotor solution. The Chinook is seen as a supplement, or an alternative to the FTR, for moving smaller intra-theatre loads.

"There are concepts on the board that says this helicopter has a lot more growth potential in it," says Jim Caudle, US Army Aviation cargo helicopter programme manager. "We're keeping enough studies going with Chinook to understand what we can do with it in terms of space capabilities, plus the risks of increasing this and the helicopter's weight lifting capabilities and range."

Boeing, meanwhile, is expecting to be awarded a contract in early August to begin development of a modernised MH-47G, equivalent to the CH-47F, for the US Special Operations Command (SOF). The first of 25 MH-47Es and of 11 MH-47Ds is set to be inducted for remanufacturing in 2003. The remaining fleet is expected to follow at a rate of six a year.

The MH-47G specification is still being defined but is likely to be a development of the ICH's Rockwell Collins avionics suite of twin multifunction displays (MFDs) and central display units. The SOF is looking at a full glass cockpit with up to four MFDs providing commonality with the army's planned modernised Sikorsky MH/UH-60M Blue Hawks and which could be backfed into the CH-47F.

Boeing is also discussing the inspection and overhaul replacement of up 130 additional components on the CH-47D/F under an army recapitalisation programme. Systems targeted include transmission, gearboxes, hydraulics and landing gear. This avoids the need for depot-level repairs of the CH-47F in the near term.

Source: Flight International