DH - Defence Helicopter

Farnborough 2018: Boeing prepares for Block II ramp up

9th July 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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As final assembly begins on the first of three engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) CH-47F Chinook Block II aircraft, Boeing is assessing how best to manage its Philadelphia production line in anticipation of a programme ramp up. 

Having set up a main line for Block II,  consisting of three assembly positions for the building of the EMD aircraft, only a relatively small space is required for the moment, but that's set to change once low rate production begins in 2020-2021.

According to Randy Rotte, director of business development for Cargo Helicopter Programmes at Boeing, the Block II line will eventually become the largest at the facility.

'We have looked at our current work, including the US Army finishing up their Block I production. We still have foreign military sales doing that, but it’s clearly ramping down from back when the army would buy 50 aircraft a year,' he told Shephard. 'The alternative line is pretty solid with contracts that we have plus campaigns that we are hoping to win.' 

Two heavy-lift contracts Boeing is hoping to win are from Germany and Israel, with CH-47F variants competing against the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion in each. 

Rotte explained that he expects decisions from each country to be made within a year of each other with deliveries to begin in 2023. Estimated aircraft quantities from Germany stand at between 45-60, while Israel are seeking between 20-30.

'The two countries use their aircraft a bit differently so it will be interesting to read what is being requested once we receive formal requirements, we can then start planning our proposals on those terms,' he said.    

Whilst the major upgrade focus of Block II is new swept rotor tips, alongside a new fuselage, fuel system and drivetrain, an engine upgrade is a priority for future Chinooks, as Boeing looks to overhaul the Honeywell T-55-L-714, which has been in service for over 20 years. 

Having established a co-operative research and development agreement alongside GE and the US Army, the OEM wants to integrate a large GE T408 engine onto a CH-47, with Rotte revealing that the company plan to fly the model for the first time in the early part of 2019.

'It’s all about demonstrating the load characteristics of a big engine on a Chinook which would give us some insights into a long term strategy for when we could incorporate a larger engine down the road, because fully qualifying an engine is a tough business,' he commented.

Despite such a plan, it is understood that the engine's development and associated certification target would arrive after deliveries of Block II aircraft begin, meaning for the foreseeable future the two projects will remain entirely separate.

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