The US Army and Boeing have agreed on a price for a second multi-year production deal for the CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopter, with a contract expected to be awarded in May.
"The good news is I'm working with Boeing. We achieved our negotiating settlement in December," says Col Bob Marion, the army's project manager for cargo helicopters. The two sides came to an agreement that reduced the cost of the contract by $810 million, equivalent to savings of about 19.2%.
With an agreement reached, the army is currently processing the necessary documents, and once that is completed, there will be a contract award. "We're on schedule to award that contract next month," he says.
US Department of Defense
Marion says budgetary issues have been resolved and the figures in President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 match those expected for the programme. Exactly what would happen if sequestration cuts are imposed on top of that is not yet known, he says, but the programme hopes to keep production going smoothly by moving around foreign aircraft buys. The second multi-year contract consists of 155 aircraft, with options for 60 more. Of the 60 options, 16 are earmarked for foreign customers in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Aircraft built under the second multi-year buy are of a slightly different configuration compared with the helicopters currently being built at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plant, says Lt Col Michael "Reese" Hauenstein, product manager for the CH-47F. Modifications introduced to the operational fleet will be cut into production under the new contract.
Aircraft from the second multi-year buy will start rolling off the production line in April 2015, Hauenstein says. But in the meantime, there is a bridge contract for 15 aircraft consisting mostly of foreign military sales purchases with the exception of one US Army aircraft.
The army and Boeing are also studying modernisations to the Chinook platform after the second multi-year buy which is currently being referred to as Block II. Among the modifications being considered are advanced rotor blades, says Lt Col Joseph Hoecherl, product manager for CH-47 modernisation. But the army would like to field that particular modification early in 2016 along with some other improvements. The fully modernised variant should enter service in the 2020s, he says.
The Chinook's electrical system is one area the army is looking at improving, based on modifications already added to Canadian CH-47F Chinooks that have recently entered flight tests. Those aircraft have a significantly boosted electrical capacity because they use three 60kV generators. The first of Canad's eventual 15 F-models will be delivered this summer, according to Boeing's Chinook business development manager, Mark Ballew.
The UK has also ordered 14 new Chinook aircraft with a different cockpit configuration developed via its Project Julius effort. The first of those aircraft will be delivered next year.