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Army unveils new modified Chinook helicopter

Army News Service

Release Date: 5/11/2004

By Kelly Tyler

RIDLEY PARK, Pa. (Army News Service, May 11, 2004) - Army special operations forces received their first MH-47G Chinook helicopter during a rollout ceremony at aircraft manufacturer Boeing's compound in Ridley Park, May 6.

The military's newest rotary-wing airframe, updated and better equipped than its Chinook predecessors, will be flown exclusively by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky.

To kick off the event, an older MH-47D model flew directly over the thousands of Boeing employees who had gathered to watch the ceremony. Landing nearby, the Chinook discharged its cargo of three special operations Soldiers and a Ground Mobility Vehicle, which rolled slowly across the flight ramp as the door to a hangar opened and the new brand-new MH-47G was rolled out.

Patrick Shanahan, vice president and general manager for Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, then handed the first set of symbolic "keys" to the modified aircraft to Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Sentiff and Staff Sgt. Michael Luna, both of the 160th SOAR.

"All of us at Boeing are extremely proud of the Chinook and its record of service with the U.S. Army, Army special operations and our allies around the world for more than four decades," Shanahan said. "The Chinook's unique capabilities show clearly why the Chinook is and will continue to be a central war-fighting asset for your armed forces."

The MH-47 is more than just an airframe, Shanahan said. "The design and manufacturing of this aircraft (have) been a labor of love and a model of working together," he said. "Teamwork has characterized our program from the start."

Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., also spoke to the crowd.

"Not only have we all gotten a personal introduction to our 'work horse,' but we have also had the opportunity to shake hands with everyone who helped make this possible," Kensinger said.

Kensinger reminded those gathered - civilian and military - that the aircraft itself is secondary.

"As magnificent as this aircraft is, it is only as good as the people who design it, build it, fly it, and support it," Kensinger said.

Kensinger told the gathered Boeing workers that anyone who contributed to the construction of the aircraft was also contributing to victory in the Global War on Terrorism.

"The equipment (the 160th SOAR flies) is what gets the boots on the ground to fight the Global War on Terrorism," Kensinger said. "It is also the equipment that gets them back safely to their families."

The event was more than just a presentation of USASOC and Boeing's newest collaboration. It also gave the Boeing workers a chance to understand the role of the MH-series aircraft, and it allowed those workers to speak directly to Soldiers who have been affected by the capabilities of the MH-47. Workers and guests checked out both the older "D" model and the newest "G" model following the ceremony, speaking with aviation crew members as well as members of a Special Forces operational detachment.

"This is a great bunch of guys," said John Williams, flight engineer for Boeing. "We want them to be well-protected up there," he said. "I feel better knowing these guys have the best equipment there is."

The MH-47G has capabilities not found on any other rotor-wing aircraft in the world. Its specialized mission equipment includes:

Multi-mode radar that permits terrain following and terrain avoidance in all climatic conditions

A Common Avionics Architecture System-equipped cockpit that enhances joint operability and pilot situational awareness

Next generation forward-looking infrared, or FLIR

M-134 Gatling "miniguns" and M-240D machine guns for increased defensive firepower

Advanced, integrated aircraft survivability equipment

Oversized main fuel tanks

The Army has approved the purchase of 61 MH-47G airframes. Procurement and distribution will continue through fiscal 2011.

(Editor's note: Kelly Tyler writes for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne).)

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