Boeing marks the 50th anniversary of delivering the first H-47 Chinook military helicopter. Boeing has delivered more than 1,200 Chinooks to 18 operators around the world since delivering the first to the U.S. Army on Aug. 16, 1962. More than 800 are in operation today, conducting combat, cargo transport and humanitarian relief missions.
The Chinook, a twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter, was designed and initially produced by Boeing Vertol in the early 1960s. With a top speed of 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h) it is faster than contemporary utility and attack helicopters of the 1960s. The helicopter is one of the few aircraft of the Vietnam War era that is still in production and in front line service. It is now produced by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems. Chinooks have been sold to 16 nations with the US Army and the Royal Air Force (see Boeing Chinook (UK variants)) being the largest users. The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. Its primary roles include troop movement, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply.
Improved and more powerful versions of the CH-47 have been developed since the helicopter entered service. The US Army’s first major design leap was the now-common CH-47D, which entered service in 1982. Improvements from the CH-47C included upgraded engines, composite rotor blades, a redesigned cockpit to reduce pilot workload, improved and redundant electrical systems, an advanced flight control system and improved avionics. The latest mainstream generation is the CH-47F, which features several major upgrades to reduce maintenance, digitized flight controls, and is powered by two 4,733-horsepower Honeywell engines.
A commercial model of the Chinook, the Boeing-Vertol Model 234, is used worldwide for logging, construction, fighting forest fires, and supporting petroleum extraction operations. The Chinook has been licensed to be built by companies outside of the United States, such as Elicotteri Meridionali (now AgustaWestland) in Italy, Kawasaki in Japan.
“The Chinook has served as the backbone of U.S. Army aviation since the Vietnam era, revolutionizing how we move troops and supplies in combat, and save lives and deliver aid in times of need,” said Col. Bob Marion, U.S. Army Cargo Helicopter program manager. “The latest F-model has ushered in a new era of heavy-lift capability for the U.S. Army. With continued technology insertions, I fully expect that 50 years from now there will be a centennial celebration for Chinooks still in service.”
“Chinook is Boeing’s longest continuously running production program, and it’s in greater demand today than ever before,” said Leanne Caret, vice president, Vertical Lift and H-47 Programs. “Chinooks are being delivered on schedule and operating at a higher rate than any time in history, thanks to our team’s innovation, efficiency, and focus on meeting our customers’ needs.”
Production line updates will enable Boeing to continue to affordably increase CH-47 Chinook production rates. Boeing is scheduled to deliver nearly 60 Chinooks this year and has submitted a multiyear, firm fixed-price proposal to the Department of Defense to provide 155 CH-47Fs to the U.S. Army with deliveries beginning in 2015.
Photos: Boeing, U.S. Army