Boeing’s CH-47F Block II Chinook heavy-lift helicopter performed its maiden flight at Boeing’s manufacturing plant outside Philadelphia, on March 28.
This is the first test aircraft Boeing is building as part of the $276 million contract awarded by the U.S. Army. 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.
The first CH-47F Chinook Block II off the assembly line takes flight as it prepares for the Army’s flight test program. Block II keeps Chinooks a part of @USArmy until the 2060s. pic.twitter.com/Vo7li1QHEa
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) March 28, 2019
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.
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.