Boeing and the U.S. Army celebrated a major CH-47F Chinook Block II program milestone with the loading of the first engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) helicopter into final assembly on June 27, 2018.
“The CH-47F Block II represents tomorrow’s heavy lift readiness for the United States Army and her allied partners,” said Col. Greg Fortier, U.S. Army project manager for Cargo Helicopters. “Whether it is increasing total payload, improving the transmission, advancing the Chinook rotor blade, or setting the conditions for supervised autonomous flight, this aircraft provides ground tactical commanders immense capability to win in the multi-domain battle.”
The contract to develop the next-generation Chinook for the U.S. Army conventional – CH-47F Chinook Block II – and Special Operations Forces (SOF) – MH-47G Chinook Block II – was awarded to Boeing in July 2017. The Block II program incorporates several upgrades to increase lift capability, including Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades, an upgraded fuselage, new fuel system, and new drivetrain. These updates greatly increase the commonality between U.S. Army and allied fleets, thus reducing maintenance costs.
An improved drivetrain will transfer greater power from the engines to the all-new, swept-tip 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.
“Our progress from contract award to final assembly in less than a year is a direct result of the efficiency and reliability of the program,” said Chuck Dabundo, vice president, Boeing Cargo Helicopters and H-47 program manager. “Block II upgrades will help keep Chinooks in operation for the U.S. Army into the 2060s.”
The first Block II aircraft is expected to be completed in 2019, with flight testing scheduled shortly thereafter. First delivery is expected in 2023. Eventually, the Army will upgrade more than 500 Chinooks to the new 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.