The CH-47 Chinook, the workhorse of the US Army, is manufactured by the Boeing Vertol company. The Chinook has served as the prime mover for the US Army and other military forces for decades. Its principal missions include transport of troops, artillery, ammunitions, fuel, water, barrier materials, supplies and equipment on the battlefield. Other missions include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, fire fighting, parachute drops, heavy construction, civil development, disaster relief, and search and rescue. In the US Army National Guard and among international customers, Chinooks often expend the majority of their flight hours on these latter missions.
The CH-47 is a twin-engine, tandem rotor helicopter designed for transportation of cargo, troops, and weapons during day, night, visual, and instrument conditions. The aircraft fuselage is approximately 50 feet long. With a 60-foot rotor span, on each rotor system, the effective length of a CH-47 (with blades turning) is approximately 100 feet from the most forward point of the forward rotor to the most rearward point on the aft rotor. Maximum airspeed is 170 knots with a normal cruise speed of 130 knots. However, speed for any mission will vary greatly depending on load configuration (internal or external), time of day, or weather conditions. The minimum crew for tactical operations is four, two pilots, one flight engineer, and one crew chief. For more complex missions, such as NVG operations and air assaults, commanders may consider using five crew members and add one additional crew chief.
The effectiveness of the Chinook has been continually upgraded by successive product improvements, the CH-47A, CH-47B, CH-47C, and CH-47D. Continuous product improvements have more than doubled the Chinook's lift capacity since its inception. The amount of load a cargo helicopter can carry depends on the model, the fuel on board, the distance to be flown, and atmospheric conditions.
By 1976 the Army recognized that that the Chinook fleet was rapidly reaching the end of its useful life and signed a contract with Boeing to significantly improve and update the CH-47. Under this initiative, a total of 472 CH-47A, B, and C model Chinooks were converted to CH-47D's. Versions of the CH-47 Chinook were produced under license in Italy and Japan in addition to the CH-47D and MH-47E produced in the United States. User countries include Australia, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA.
The Chinook entered Army service in the early 1960s with a CH-47A, B, or C model designation. From 1980 through 1993, the early model aircraft were remanufactured to the current CH-47D configuration. By 2005, some 46 percent of the Army's CH-47D fleet was originally manufactured prior to 1966.
The CH-47F aircraft’s mission is to transport ground forces, supplies, and battle-critical cargo in support of all future contingencies. The CH-47F Program is a rebuild of the current CH-47D helicopter that will extend the service life, increase operational performance (lift capability and range), and provide the cockpit with digital communications and navigation capability, allowing interoperability on the digital battlefield. Additionally, the rebuild of the airframe will reduce aircraft vibration through the stiffening of structural components, which should reduce aircraft operations and support cost. The service life extension effort will sustain the heavy-lift capability that the aging CH-47D fleet provides the Army and bridge the gap until the DoD develops a follow-on aircraft.
The MH-47G Program is a rebuild of MH-47D and MH-47E aircraft in use within the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
The total production quantity is projected for 337 Chinook aircraft, consisting of 301 CH-47Fs and 36 MH-47Gs. Based on the Vice Chief of Staff’s direction, the acquisition communities within the Army and USSOCOM developed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to support planning for the development and production of the CH-47F and MH-47G aircraft configurations.
The Army initiated the CH-47F Program in May 1998, when the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology (renamed Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) approved the program for entry into the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the acquisition process as a major Defense acquisition program and designated the Army Acquisition Executive as the milestone decision authority. The Army then awarded Boeing Helicopters an engineering and manufacturing development contract for $ 76.1 million. The Army Program Executive Officer, Aviation and the Project Manager, Cargo Helicopter (the Project Manager) manage the CH-47F Program.
By 2014 the US Army Cargo Helicopters Project Management Office (PMO) was conducting market research to determine feasibility of a competitive acquisition and to identify potential sources that can provide specialized engineering, analysis, test and technical services requiring modification to an existing system, the CH-47F, in order to maintain the ability of the Chinook to continue to meet mission requirements (bridges the Gap between MY II and fielding of a New Army Heavy Lift Capability in the 2040 timeframe, retains required capabilities with continued growth in mission equipment and potentially regains additional lift capability through 2050). The Cargo PMO was seeking potential solutions for block improvements to support the complete lifecycle of the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters.
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