Conceptually, the CHINOOK Block II programme will bolster the US Army CH-47Fs by integrating new technologies – including the Advanced CHINOOK rotor blades, redesigned fuel tanks, an enhanced fuselage and an improved drivetrain – all aimed at increasing payload, providing commonality across the fleet and creating a foundation for affordable future upgrades. The Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)’s MH-47Gs will also be modernised in this programme.
The US Army’s CHINOOK Block II helicopter programme achieved acquisition Milestone B on 5 April 2017. The programme engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract was awarded in July 2017. Randy Rotte, responsible for business development and strategic marketing activities for Boeing's (Booth #1415) Cargo Helicopter and Future Vertical Lift programmes worldwide, noted: “Initially the EMD contract will support building three test aircraft with the follow-on programme of record consisting of 473 CH-47F Block II aircraft and 69 MH-47G Block II aircraft. The first three aircraft have already been inducted into Boeing and will load the primary assembly line this summer. Once those aircraft are completed, the flight test programme will start in 2019.”
Mr. Rotte, provided more programme details, noting, “the Advanced CHINOOK Rotor Blade’s new swept-tip design enables the rotor system to lift an additional 1,500lbs. [680kg] in the ‘high/hot flight environment of 4k/95’ [4,000ft (1,200m) and 95 °F (35 °C)] high and hot hover performance. Instead of six individual fuel tanks on the aircraft (three on each side), two lighter tanks will carry more fuel and shed more weight. The improved drivetrain will more efficiently take about 9% additional torque from the engines to the rotor blades. And the fuselage’s structure will be redesigned in critical areas to increase the aircraft’s carrying capacity in all conditions.”
The CHINOOK is on order or operated by 20 countries, including eight NATO nations – Canada, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the US. Concurrently, Boeing has established a global network of suppliers, and companies in other programme life cycle support rolls. For instance, the German-based Aircraft Philipp Group GmbH is on contract to deliver machine parts for the global fleet of H-47 CHINOOKs. Another business, Newington, Connecticut (US)-based PCX Aerostructures, LLC, builds and provides complex, flight critical assemblies for the CHINOOK. Asked to comment on the industry partners for the Boeing-led Block II effort, the corporate leader replied: “With only a few exceptions, the industry partners that have made up Team CHINOOK over the past decade for the CH-47F will continue to provide our worldwide CHINOOK operators this tremendous capability to support their operations.”
With respect to Boeing seeking to upgrade non-US military CH-47s to Block II, or approximate Block II, configurations, Mr. Rotte said; “As with the CH-47F and the CH-47Ds before that, we will work with worldwide rotary wing forces to provide them the capabilities they need to execute their missions. We continually inform these operators of all possible capabilities so that they can make informed decisions on which configurations and capabilities to pursue. We work closely with our US Army partners through the FMS [foreign military sales] process with many of these international operators and anticipate providing Block II’s when the timing is right for all parties involved. As of right now, we look forward to executing our current Block II contract to deliver these three test aircraft and demonstrate this excellent capability.”
The industry subject matter expert concluded: “The Block II upgrades include new and evolutionary technologies such as new LED [light-emitting diode] interior and exterior lighting, and electrical power distribution that is cleaner and allows for future growth. The Block II CHINOOK configuration incorporates provisions for future propulsion, and avionics upgrades, either as ECPs [engineering change proposals] or Block upgrades.”