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Boeing frets about unit cost outlook for Chinook upgrade

Boeing is concerned that US Army modernization efforts may shift funds away from the CH-47 Block II upgrade programme, costing it business and driving up the aircraft's unit costs.

Following rumors and an unconfirmed report, Boeing said it has reached out to unnamed officials in the US Army to express its belief that reductions in the number of upgrades ordered by the service could hurt the company’s supplier base and increase the per unit cost of the transport helicopter.

“We are not privy to any budget conversations,” says Randy Rotte, director of global sales and marketing for cargo helicopters and Future Vertical Lift. “We’ve heard rumors or snippets.”

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Rotte declined to name specific US Army officials with whom he has had conversations. Lt Gen Murray, head of the US Army Futures Command, which is leading the service’s modernization efforts, declined to comment on the possibility of the CH-47 Block II programme being reduced.

As part of the US Army’s modernization effort, some $25 billion within the US defense budget will be redirected to support the service’s development of long-range precision weapons, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift aircraft, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and improved soldier lethality, said US Army Secretary Mark Esper at Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. on 8 October.

Block II upgrades for the CH-47F and CH-47G include single cell composite fuel tanks with increased capacity, a new drivetrain, and a new blade that promises extra lift in high and hot situations. Overall, the aircraft will increase its payload capacity by more than 4,000lb, Boeing says.

The full programme calls for the upgrade of 473 CH-47F models and 69 MH-47G models, a variant used by US Special Operations Command.

Story amended with correct aircraft type MH-47G.

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