The US Army needs more blade folding kits to help deploy its Boeing CH-47 Chinooks, the service’s deputy chief of staff for NATO operations says this week.
The fastest way to transport the tandem-rotor helicopters across Europe is in a Boeing C-17. But over the course of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the army wore out the blade folding kits required to fit the Chinooks inside the Globemaster.
“We found that we always move those kits around to where they’re needed and we always make our deployment,” Brig Gen Frank Tate tells FlightGlobal at the annual Army Aviation Association of America mission systems solutions summit in Nashville, Tennessee. “But in an ideal world, it would be better if we had more of those kits.”
Before procuring additional kits, the army must analyse whether it makes sense to improve the way the service transfers its existing equipment or move forward with a new acquisition, he says. However, he notes the service found the kit shortage emerged as a greater issue on a recent deployment.
The army’s Chinook fleet also lacks de-icing capabilities for the blades, which would help the helicopters in low cloud and icy conditions in Europe.
“We would have to do an analysis on what it would take to achieve that and compare that to how much that hampers our ability to fly in different environments and conditions,” Tate says.
More broadly, Tate hopes to improve survivability equipment across his fleet as the army faces a resurgent Russia that presents more robust air defence systems than adversaries in the Middle East.
“It’s been a long time since the US Army has had to face an enemy that would present an air threat to us,” he says. “But in that environment, at least in the early days of the fight, that would be the case. We have to have more air defence and capability to organically protect not just our aviation formations, but our land formations.”