Paris Air Show: Boeing to ink EMD Chinook contract
Boeing expects to ink the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract for the manufacture of three CH-47F Block II aircraft before the end of August following completion of the testing of new rotor blades in early May.
Flight testing of the advanced composite rotor blades, which will add about 1,600lbs (726kg) in lift, began in late 2016. Milestone B for the Block II programme, which according to the company signifies its place as a programme of record, was approved on 5 April.
A company spokesperson said a ‘handshake agreement’ was in place for the three EMD aircraft and with the approval of the 2017 budget the programme was ready to move forward.
‘The results of the flight tests were very positive and we demonstrated the amount of lift improvement we committed to achieve and exceeded the 1,500lbs of additional lift we had expected,’ the spokesperson commented.
‘The balance of [further improvement] through drive and electrical system changes and structural changes are on track. We will fly them in 2019 and run for a couple of years to get through that phase of the programme. Risk reduction has gone well and the next set of aircraft for EMD will go into production in the 2020s,’ they added.
A key change included in Block II are the single fuel sponsons which allow for greater fuel capacity. Previous CH-47s had three compartments which reduced fuel space and using a single sponson has partially increased capacity by reducing intra-cell fuel transfer hardware.
Block II aircraft will initially be rebuilt CH-47F airframes and the first of these, a US Army asset, will be inducted as soon as the contract is signed. Almost all of the Block IIs will be rebuilt airframes but at some point in the next ten years it is likely that new build airframes will be used for Block II aircraft in an effort to replace aircraft lost or removed from service.
The first delivery of a Block II aircraft is scheduled in 2023 with Milestone C scheduled for 2021. It is expected that there will be six aircraft in the first low-rate initial production lot. The company plans to send 25-30 aircraft a year down the line and with 542 aircraft in US service it is expecting as much as 18 years work and it is already looking ahead to, and manufacturing for, later years and into a possible Block III.
‘The US Army is convinced they are eventually going to put in a new engine, to the point that in the aft section of Block II there is additional structure to support a bigger, heavier engine in the expectation that will happen at some point,’ the official said.
‘It might be an existing engine, but there is no requirement or funding.’
There is also potential outside the US with the company pointing out that there are 900+ aircraft in 19 countries, including eight NATO nations, and therefore substantial international opportunities.
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