US airframer Boeing has secured a $271 million order from US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for additional MH-47G Block II Chinook helicopters.
The deal was announced by the Pentagon on 8 December and covers six remanufactured aircraft, according to Boeing. The aircraft are to be delivered by 2027.
“With the new and improved MH-47G Block II aircraft, [SOCOM] is not only receiving the most capable Chinook helicopter, they are also provided the flexibility to add additional upgrades as their needs evolve over time,” says Heather McBryan, cargo programmes manager at Boeing.
The MH-47G is the latest special-operations variant of Boeing’s long-serving Chinook platform. The company is currently under contract to provide SOCOM with 42 MH-47Gs, with some examples already in active service.
The CH-47 Block I Chinook variant is used by conventional US Army aviation units for heavy-lift and troop-transport missions. Both helicopters are produced at the same Boeing production line in Philadelphia.
The deal for six MH-47G special-operations helicopters will help sustain Boeing’s Chinook Block II production line, while the manufacturer awaits a hoped-for acquisition decision by the US Army.
While the service is in the midst of a major modernisation of its aviation fleet, its focus until now has upgrading utility-lift and reconnaissance assets through the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft programmes.
The future of the army’s heavy-lift fleet remains uncertain.
Boeing is pitching the CH-47 Block II as the logical successor to the CH-47F Block I type currently in service.
Service officials have said this year that they expected to make an decision regarding heavy-lift rotorcraft procurement before year-end. With 2023 entering its final weeks, no decision has emerged.
The army has been ordering a handful of helicopters at a time, mandated to do so by lawmakers in Congress who control US defence spending.
Separate from SOCOM MH-47G orders, Boeing won a $22.5 million army contract in July to cover advanced procurement for CH-47 Block II Lot 4 production.
Funds for at least 10 aircraft have been allocated under the initial low-rate production lots. Boeing expects to deliver the first Lot 1 aircraft in 2024.
Congress appears poised to continue supporting the Chinook Block II production line, regardless of the army’s decision.
Included in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, currently under consideration, is $41 million to support advanced procurement for Lot 5 production and nearly $380 million to purchase at least four additional CH-47F Block II aircraft.
Boeing in July received what it expects to be the final CH-47 Block I contract, covering aircraft for South Korea and Spain.
A separate $8.5 billion order from Germany approved in July covers 60 Block II Chinooks.