Boeing has delivered the first modernised example of the twin-rotor CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter to the US Army.

The US airframer on 1 June said it has delivered a Block II-configuration Chinook to the army, which earlier this year committed to acquiring the latest CH-47 variant as part of its aviation modernisation strategy.

The inaugural example is a re-manufactured Block I Chinook.

Among the improvements offered by the Block II are an upgraded drivetrain, reinforced airframe and enhanced fuel system. These deliver an improved mission radius and an additional 1,814kg (4,000lb) of maximum gross weight for the CH-47F type.

CH-47F Block II Chinook

Source: Boeing

The delivery of a re-manufactured CH-47F Chinook in the latest Block II standard marks a milestone in the US Army’s strategy to modernise its aviation fleet

Boeing says the latest configuration also improves reliability with a new rotor system that reduces unscheduled maintenance, and a simplified fuel system.

“The CH-47F Block II provides capability improvements allowing the US Army to lift more, fly farther and maintain their aircraft better than ever before,” says Heather McBryan, Boeing’s vice-president for cargo programmes.

MH-47G fast rope c 160th SOAR US Army

Source: 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment/US Army

A special operations variant of the Block II Chinook, the MH-47G, is already in service with the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment

Boeing and the army are still in negotiations over the exact scope of the Chinook modernisation programme. However, the service’s decision to continue its acquisition of the long-serving rotorcraft will be a shot in the arm for Boeing’s vertical lift business.

In February, the army announced sweeping changes to its aviation acquisition strategy, including the cancellation of a next-generation armed scout development programme and the acquisition of more existing aircraft, including the Chinook and the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

The decision ended years of uncertainty at Boeing as to the fate of the CH-47 production line, which had been operating at a minimum sustainable level with low-rate orders of the MH-47G variant from US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and a small number of Block II CH-47F orders for the army that were mandated by Congress.

“As the army’s heavy-lift platform of tomorrow, the CH-47F Block II provides increased capability while continuing support of the army’s requirement to remain strategically responsive across the full spectrum of operations,” says Viva Kelly, the US Army’s acting project manager for cargo helicopters.

The service has already contracted with Boeing for six Block II aircraft, all of which will be re-manufactured examples. Lot 1 covers four aircraft, which Boeing in April said it expects to deliver this year.

The remaining two examples on contract will conclude Lot 2, with subsequent orders still under negotiation. It is unclear how follow-on orders will be balanced between new builds and re-manufactures.

Boeing says its ideal CH-47 production rate is between 30 and 36 aircraft annually, including all three variants currently being assembled.

Block I Chinook production is expected to conclude in 2027, covering orders for Egypt, South Korea and a final example for Spain. An $8.5 billion deal with Germany will add a further 60 aircraft to the Block II backlog.

US SOCOM is also continuing to purchase MH-47Gs, with a $115 million contract announced on 26 June covering two new-production aircraft and long-lead funding for at least two more examples.