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Quad A 2017: Plans advance for Chinook Block II

19th April 2017 - 13:00 by Jim Dorschner in Washington DC

Quad A 2017: Plans advance for Chinook Block II

The first of more than 1,200 Chinooks produced for more than 19 operators around the world was delivered to the US Army on 16 August 1962.

Current plans for a Block II variant, set to enter service from 2020, make it entirely possible that this venerable heavy-lift helicopter will stay within its role for a century.

The Block II Chinook programme is the next evolutionary step in the life of the platform, involving yet another menu of upgrades.

While not all the technologies going into the Block II upgrade have been identified yet, two options already under development are the Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB) and the Future Affordable Turbine Engine, with the latter hopefully serving as a common powerplant for multiple army vertical lift platforms.

Initial flight tests of the ACRB took place in late 2016 and early 2017 at Boeing's facility in Mesa, Arizona, with a testbed CH-47F aircraft conclusively demonstrating that ACRB can provide additional lift.

Developed by Boeing and the army, ACRB is a new, fully composite blade with a swept-tip design intended to raise baseline CH-47F payload from the current 10,886kg to about 16,286kg, according to Boeing. The new asymmetric aerofoil increases lift by approximately 900kg per blade, amounting to 5,400kg in total.

Boeing officials told Shephard that a robust ACRB test regime will continue, including integration into a Block II Chinook demonstrator platform by 2018, with pre-production aircraft potentially flying in 2019.

As of January 2017, the army has accepted 375 of the latest version of the Chinook, the CH-47F.

Paul Stevenson of the US Army's Program Executive Office (PEO) for Aviation said: 'The army has taken delivery of 146 CH-47Fs that were remanufactured from CH-47Ds. There are another 80 to complete and the final delivery is expected in March 2020.'

All 12 active-duty army Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB) are now equipped with the CH-47F, while 12 National Guard CABs and the sole Army Reserve CAB continue to transition to CH-47F as CH-47Ds are divested from the inventory.

The aircrew transition from CH-47D to CH-47F requires completion of a training programme that includes academics, simulator sessions and hands-on flying with qualified instructors. Final deliveries of 61 mostly remanufactured MH-47Gs to US Army Special Operations Aviation were completed in 2016.

The MH-47G shares many features with the CH-47F, including a Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) cockpit, although in addition it has an integrated forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system and multimode radar for map-of-the-earth and low-level operations in poor visibility and adverse weather.

Enlarged fuel tanks provide double the capacity found in the CH-47F, and the G-model is capable of aerial refuelling to further increase range and endurance.

MH-47Gs are flown by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, with a battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, one at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia and another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

The CH-47F represents a significant improvement over the legacy CH-47D, including enhanced operational effectiveness and training standardisation provided by the CAAS. The CAAS cockpit and digital automatic flight control system improve situation awareness and reduce crew workload during challenging missions such as flying in reduced and zero-visibility environments and instrument meteorological conditions and also night tactical operations.

By applying the most modern manufacturing technology available, such as specially machined airframes, aircraft vibration levels have been significantly reduced, with collateral improvements in the form of reduced maintenance costs and increased aircraft availability and reliability. The CH-47F and MH-47G also feature advanced internal and external cargo handling systems.

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