Funded under a recent US$276 million US Army contract, Boeing will build and test three CH-47F Block II Chinooks to validate technology advancements including a more efficient drivetrain and new swept-tip rotor blades – designed to lift an additional 680kg on their own.
The Chinook’s current configuration of six fuel tanks (three on each side) will be reduced to two, allowing for the Block II to carry more fuel while losing weight.
And the fuselage’s structure will be strengthened in critical areas to allow the helicopter to carry an increased payload.
Boeing says it will begin building the test helicopters next year and expects to deliver the first Block II Chinook in 2023.
The US Army intends to upgrade more than 500 Chinooks to the Block II configuration, which would likely bring another two decades of work to Boeing’s Philadelphia site.
“The Army’s only heavy-lift helicopter exists to deliver decisive combat power for our ground commanders,” Colonel Greg Fortier, US Army project manager for Cargo Helicopters said in a statement.
“The Cargo family is anxious … to establish this critical program and deliver an adaptive air vehicle. Increasing payload capacity today enhances battlefield agility and prepares the Chinook for even greater performance gains in the future.”