Boeing has been awarded a $194 million contract to build MH-47G Block II Chinook helicopters for the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC).
The contract is for six renew-build and one new-build MH-47G helicopters, to be delivered starting in 2021. USASOAC provides command and control, executive oversight, and resourcing of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) aviation assets and units in support of national security objectives.
The Block II configuration will enhance the Army’s ability to safely carry out the most challenging missions around the world. Block II Chinooks feature technological advancements to extend the fleet’s service life and enhance performance.
“The MH-47G is the world’s best, most reliable heavy-lift helicopter and will help Special Operations execute their difficult missions,” said Chuck Dabundo, vice president and MH-47 program manager. “Nearly a quarter of the Special Ops fleet is now on contract for Block II, and we look forward to delivering this capability to them on schedule.”
The MH-47G Chinook is the special operations-configured variant of the CH-47 Chinook twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter. It is manufactured by Boeing and operated by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), or ‘Night Stalkers’.
The Chinooks are flown in the heavy assault role by the 160th SOAR. This includes the insertion, extraction of Special Operations Forces (SOF). The aircraft can also be used in the resupply role. Another role for the MH-47 is to act as an airborne C2 (command and control) platform. The U.S. Army currently operates 69 MH-47G Chinook helicopters.
Boeing is now on contract for a total of 15 MH-47G Block II Chinooks. The first MH-47G Block II aircraft is scheduled to begin final assembly this year. Concurrent with the MH-47G enhancements, Boeing is also developing a Block II configuration for the U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.
CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook Block II
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.
On June 27 last year, 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.
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.