Boeing takes the Chinook helicopter back to the drawing board
This modernization project will help validate technology advancements to increase the iconic helicopter’s lifting power.
Boeing has announced a major modernization effort for its iconic American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter.
The U.S.-based company will build and test three U.S. Army CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters—a project funded through a recent $276 million Army contract.
Boeing hopes this modernization project will help validate technology advancements that will increase the iconic helicopter’s lifting power—the CH-47 variant is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters.
“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.”
With increased payload capacity, the next-gen Chinooks will have enhances battlefield agility and this will help spur on even greater performance gains in the future.
As for the improvements, the helicopters will include an improved drivetrain that will transfer power from the engines to the all-new, swept-tip Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades. The blades been engineered to lift 1,500 additional pounds on their own.
Another major change for the helicopter will be with the fuel tank configuration. The current configuration of six fuel tanks (three on each side) will become two. Boeing believes this will enable 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 success of the Chinook is linked to the U.S. Army continued support of the helicopter, adds Dabundo. The Army intends to continue to upgrade its current Chinooks and support existing platform variant upgrades.
Boeing will begin building the test aircraft sometime next year with the test program beginning in 2019. The aerospace giant plans for the first delivery of the Block II Chinook to come in 2023. Eventually, the Army will upgrade more than 500 Chinooks to Block II configuration.