The Army has made plans to continue to use the cargo helicopter CH-47 Chinook, the Vietnam-era War pillar that is still in service to this very day. Army officials state the Chinook is upgrading by unceasingly progressing in advancements to the platform by technological adjustments, improving avionics, cargo handling, lift, and weight, just to name a few areas.
Originally manufactured in the early 1960s, the Army aims to continue to build on and service the helicopter to last until the 2060s. No other helicopter still in use is as old the Chinook, the first introduced model was the CH-47A in the 1960s. The current CH-47F is the newest model, and the Army seeks to keep the CH-47 line of helicopters in service, with their service-span to hit the 100-year mark.
Chinook F, the most recent version of this air cargo rock is a representation of the latest advancements in technology. The helicopter has a decorated career in the delivery of food, troops, and supplies to mountainous terrain.
The CH-47F can soar up to 18,000-feet, has a 400-mile nautical range, and can hit speeds of nearly 170 knots. The 18-foot high, 52 foot wide Chinook can take off with 50,000 pounds and is capable of strategic maneuvering with 26,000 pounds on board. Additionally, the CH-47F is capable of mounting a minimum of three machine gun turrets; a single on in each window and the third from the cargo opening in the back.
Currently, the CH-47F is under maintenance, where it is having upgrades to its CAAS (Common Avionics Architecture System), to increase interface usability of digital displays and avionics. The new upgrades will efficiently and effectively deliver critical information to the crew, allowing them to make quicker strategic moves, based on displayed mission data.
The U.S. Army plans to command a fleet of 473 Chinook Fs, by 2018. The Ch-47F is also set to be equipped with a new “Block 2” engine by 2021, which will improve functionality at lower air pressures to ensure optimal maneuverability and operations. In addition to the “Block 2” plans, actions have been taken to engineer new rotorblades capable of increasing lift loads another 1,500 pounds.
Small changes to the structure have been made over the years to make maintenance more efficient with upgrade plans. Other upgrades to the Chinooks includes COOLS (Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System), and advanced vibration controls are also in the works.
Some body modifications are coming according to an interview Lt. Col. Ricard Bratt conducted with Scout Warrior, ”The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. Also, the program office has conducted an in-depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,”
Lastly, the ATIRCM (Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures) has received updates making it more lightweight and improved. The new CIRCM is a high-end laser jammer with the ability to disrupt guided missiles by taking advantage of an infrared sensor that tracks incoming missiles. This new upgrade will aid to reduce the overall weight and increase its portability, making it easier to deploy across the fleet.
With the Army shooting for upgrades that will bring the CH-47 up past the century service mark, budgeting will continue to remain a factor. No other Army aircraft is set to reach the life span of the Chinook line. Sometimes the most effective things in life are the things we take care of and maintain. The Army knows this lesson very well and seeks to keep the Chinook in service for another 50 years at least.