With the first CH-47F Chinook engineering and manufacturing development helicopter loaded into final assembly on 25 June for its Block II upgrades, Boeing is using the Farnborough Airshow to highlight the advantages of its latest improvements to prospective international customers.
Boeing expects to upgrade some 500 Chinooks with Block II capabilities for the US Army at its Philadelphia, Pennsylvania facility in the coming years. At the moment, the company has a $276 million Army contract to build and test the upgrades on three Chinooks. Boeing plans to test the helicopters in 2019 and anticipates first delivery in 2023.
The heavy lift cargo helicopter’s Block II upgrades 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.
Boeing is also pitching its latest model, the extended-range MH-47G, emphasising that it has a high number of interchangeable parts with its predecessor, allowing operators to swap components between aircraft. Eight NATO countries already operate the Chinook, including the US, Netherlands, UK and Italy.
“It’s got a very broad footprint around the world and the users take advantage of that,” says Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president of Cargo Helicopters and H-47 programme manager. “That’s going to help with sustainment costs, spare parts and things like that.”
The Chinook doesn’t have the lifting capacity of the re-engined Sikorsksy CH-53K or that type's ability to be stored aboard a ship, but Boeing says its dual rotors give it other advantages.
“You look historically at missions in Afghanistan, Chinook was one of the few aircraft that was able to operate in high, hot conditions,” says Dabundo. “In general, the big advantage you get out of the tandem rotor configuration is 100% of engine power you get goes into generating lift.”
Germany, Spain and Israel are all prospective customers for the Chinook, Dabundo says.