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MH-47G Chinook Service Life

The last remanufactured MH-47G Chinook was delivered from the Boeing Military Aircraft Mobility Division in Ridley Park, Pa., to Lexington Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky, 14 March 2011, by Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing Philadelphia flight crews. Because each MH-47G began its life as either a CH-47D or MH-47E, Boeing was able to accelerate the engineering and begin production years earlier than it could have provided a new airframe to the Army to support their critical mission. The remanufacture timeline for each MH-47G took approximately 16 months.

The MH-47G Program is a modification of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment fleet of MH-47D and MH-47E Chinook helicopters to incorporate the service life extension elements of the Army CH-47F Program. The modifications include an airframe rebuild for reduced vibration, new engines for increased lift and range, and new and modified avionics to support the special operations mission. By upgrading and extending the service life of the MH-47 fleet, the MH-47G Program will provide for rapid movement of special operations forces, equipment for counterterrorism actions, strategic intelligence strikes, tactical reconnaissance, infiltration, resupply, extraction, and interdiction operations during night, day, adverse weather, and limited visibility conditions.

The MH-47G Program became linked with the Army CH-47F Program when the Army Vice Chief of Staff directed that the CH-47F Project Manager incorporate 61 special operations helicopters (the MH-47G) into the planned production of the CH-47F. Based on the Vice Chief of Staffs direction, the acquisition communities within SOCOM and the Army developed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to plan the development and upgrade of the MH-47G and CH-47F helicopters. SOCOM plans to upgrade 61 Chinook helicopters to MH-47Gs, and the Army plans to upgrade 300 Chinooks to CH-47Fs.

SOCOM initiated what is now the MH-47G Program in October 1997, by approving the Operational Requirements Document for the MH-47D/E Service Life Extension Program. Under the SOCOM acquisition strategy, the legacy MH-47E helicopter design is the baseline configuration to which SOCOM will incorporate the Army CH-47F airframe service life extension with the SOCOM Common Avionics Architecture Suite (CAAS) and additional avionics and hardware modifications to derive the MH-47G helicopter. In July 2002, USASOC revised its plans for the MH-47D and E helicopters to add the Common Avionics Architecture Suite, the avionics and hardware modifications identified in the Blue Grass Army Depot MH-47E Block III Modifications.

For the SOCOM MH-47G, the typical peacetime operating weight is approximately 40,000 pounds, while the average weight typically carried to support combat operations is 47,000 pounds. This equates to a 17.5% increase in weight above that normally sustained during non-combat operations.

MH-47 logisticians estimate that 35% of the hours flown on the program are hours flown to support combat operations, while the remaining 65% of the hours flown on the program are hours flown to support non-combat operations. Since the MH-47G did not deploy to combat until February 2007, all hours flown prior to February 2007 are considered non-combat (training) hours and the percentage estimates should be applied to the hours count from February 2007 onward.

Data provided as of December 31, 2007 reported that the G fleet had 40 active assets. From program inception for the G model, battle losses totaled zero and non-combat losses were one. The total number of hours flown on the active assets for the G fleet is 14,527. Prior to deployment in February 2007, 7,335 hours were flown to support training. From February 2007 through the end of 2007, 7,192 hours were flown. Applying the aforementioned percentages to estimate the number of hours flown to support combat and non-combat operations results in 2,517.20 combat hours (35% of 7,192 hours) and 4,674.80 non-combat hours (65% of 7,192 hours). This results in a total of 2,517.20 combat hours and 12,009.80 non-combat hours (7,335 + 4,674.80 hours).

The fatigue multiplier, which is applied to the wartime hours to account for asset fatigue that is occurring during contingency/GWOT operations, is calculated by adding one to the 17.5% weight increase carried for GWOT operations. The peacetime (non-combat) hours and the wartime hours, after being weighted by the fatigue multiplier, are summed and divided by the total hours available of 120,000 (3,000 hours per aircraft times 40 active assets). The resulting number is multiplied by the active asset quantity. Battle losses and non-combat losses are then added to this number to determine the number of equivalent lives consumed. The result is 5.99 equivalent lives consumed, or 14.63% [6/41] of the program service life has been consumed.

The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things. The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.




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