U.S. Army has awarded a three-year, $276 million contract to Boeing to validate technology advancements that will increase the lifting power of the iconic CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopters.
As per the contract, Boeing will build and test three U.S. Army CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters as part of a modernization effort that will likely bring another two decades of work to the company’s Philadelphia site.
“The Army’s only heavy-lift helicopter exists to deliver decisive combat power for our ground commanders,” said Col. Greg Fortier, U.S. Army project manager for Cargo Helicopters. “The Cargo family is anxious to build upon Col. Rob Barrie’s efforts to establish this critical program and deliver an adaptive air vehicle. Increasing payload capacity today enhances battlefield agility and prepares the Chinook for even greater performance gains in the future.”
An improved drivetrain will transfer greater power from the engines to the all-new, swept-tip Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades, which have been engineered to lift 1,500 additional pounds on their own. The current configuration of six fuel tanks – three on each side – will become two, allowing the aircraft to carry more fuel and shed weight. Additionally, the fuselage’s structure will be strengthened in critical areas to allow the aircraft to carry additional payload.
“This latest upgrade for the Chinook fleet is a tribute to the robustness of its original design and exemplifies its 55-year legacy of technological advancements,” said Chuck Dabundo, vice president, Cargo Helicopters and program manager, H-47. “The fact that the U.S. Army continues to use and value this platform and they are intending to continue to upgrade it to keep it flying for decades to come is a testament of the capabilities the Chinook team continues to bring.”
Boeing will begin building the test aircraft next year. The test program begins in 2019 and first delivery of the Block II Chinook is expected in 2023. Eventually, the Army will upgrade more than 500 Chinooks to Block II configuration.
Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter whose primary roles are troop movement, artillery placement and battlefield resupply.
It has a wide loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage and three external ventral cargo hooks. With a top speed of 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h) the helicopter was faster than contemporary 1960s utility helicopters and attack helicopters, and is still one of the fastest helicopters in the US inventory. The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters.
The Chinook was designed and initially produced by Boeing Vertol in the early 1960s; it is now produced by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems. It is one of the few aircraft of that era – along with the fixed-wing Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft – that remain in production and frontline service, with over 1,200 built to date.
The helicopter has been sold to 16 nations with the U.S. Army and the Royal Air Force being its largest users.