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This is what Wild Hogs do in Louisiana.

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 23:03
pic via Louisiana Bow Hunters Association. These animals are pests in the truest sense of the world and they're wrecking the ecology.  Mark my words.  Its only a matter of time before...

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

What Russia’s military operation in Syria can tell us about advances in its capabilities

Russian Military Reform - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 22:11

PONARS Eurasia has just published my memo on Russia’s military  operation in Syria from our February policy conference in Istanbul. I’m reposting it here. Lots of other very interesting memos are available on the PONARS website.


As Russia begins to wind down its military operation in Syria, it is time to assess what it has taught us about how the Russian military operates. Although relatively small in scale, the operation in Syria has highlighted some major improvements in Russian military capabilities. Compared to the 2008 Georgia War, which was the last time the Russian Air Force operated in a combat environment, the Russian military appears to have made great strides in operational tempo and inter-service integration. The operation has also showcased Russia’s recently developed standoff strike capability and demonstrated significant advances in its ability to carry out expeditionary operations.

Russia’s initial air campaign in Syria successfully targeted weapons and equipment depots that opposition forces had captured from government forces. After eliminating these targets, Russian air forces began coordinating with Syrian and Iranian ground forces against opposition fighters in the northwestern part of the country, though this part of the operation took time to have an appreciable impact.

High Operational Intensity and Improved Inter-Service Coordination

The operational tempo of Russian air operations in Syria was quite high from the start. In October, an average of 45 sorties per day were carried out by a total of 34 airplanes and 16 helicopters. The pace of the operation also increased over time, rising from approximately 20 sorties per day at the start of the operation to around 60 per day at its initial peak on October 8-9. It then declined, most likely because the easiest and most obvious targets had all been hit and opposition forces adapted to Russian air attacks by ceasing to operate out in the open.

The Russian operation further expanded in November 2015, in the aftermath of the bombing of a Russian civilian airliner in the Sinai and again after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 that infringed on Turkish airspace. In mid-November, the Russian government announced the addition of 37 Su-34 and Su-27 aircraft, which allowed it to increase the number of daily sorties to 127.

The overall average between the start of the operation on September 30 and the end of December was 60 sorties per day, with a maximum of 189 strikes on December 24. This high operational tempo is especially surprising considering the rash of crashes that Russian military aircraft suffered earlier in 2015. Experts blamed the crashes on Russia’s over-used and aging aircraft fleet. While unconfirmed rumors circulated that the operational tempo and harsh desert conditions resulted in maintenance problems for many Russian aircraft, the Russian Air Force’s ability to maintain the high frequency of sorties for over three months speaks to a more resilient force than expected.

The operation in Syria has also highlighted advances in integration among the branches of Russia’s military. This was one of the goals of military reform undertaken after notable failures were revealed during the war in Georgia. In order to improve inter-service coordination, the Russian military reorganized its regional command structure so that all non-strategic military units in each military district were placed under the direct authority of that district’s military commander. In the past, cooperation across services in a particular region had to be coordinated through the service headquarters in Moscow; the new structure allowed this coordination to take place at the regional level. This innovation has had the effect of greatly improving the speed of decisionmaking in regional conflicts.

In November 2014, the Russian Ministry of Defense also established the National Defense Control Center (NDCC), which acts as a major communications hub and advanced data analysis center for the military. The activation of the NDCC has led to more rapid information transfer between the theater of operations and military leaders in Moscow. Information from all types of military assets around the world is collected and analyzed in one location. As a result, the NDCC has reduced the number of steps in military decisionmaking, resulting in increased speed and higher reliability in adjusting military actions to changes in the operating environment.

In addition, Russia’s air force has demonstrated an ability to work with both other services and foreign forces. The Russian Navy, for example, provided sealift for the Syria campaign, as well as long-range air defense with the S-300 system, which was situated on the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Slava-class cruiser Moskva in the first half of the operation. Having a ship-based, long-range air defense system allowed Russia to provide defense against potential attacks while avoiding tensions with Israel, which would be unhappy if Russia provided such systems to Syrian forces.[1] Although Russian ground forces played a relatively limited role in the conflict, they were important for providing area defense for the Russian air base at Hmeymim.

More significantly, the Russian air force showed an ability to coordinate its operations with Syrian and Iranian ground forces, which conducted offensives against Syrian opposition positions under Russian air cover. While these offensives were not as effective at regaining territory as Russian leaders might have hoped at the start of the operation, they did eventually succeed in driving anti-government forces out of several key areas and placed the Assad government in a stronger position for potential peace negotiations.

Advances in Weaponry

Russia’s operation in Syria tested and highlighted advances in Russian weaponry while revealing the limitations of its new capabilities. For the first time, Russian aircraft used precision-guided munitions (PGMs) in combat. Only about 20 percent of strikes used such modern weaponry, however, while the rest were carried out with older, unguided gravity bombs. According to Russian analysts, the air force achieved better accuracy with its unguided munitions by using modern onboard targeting equipment and by more intensive training of its pilots. As a result, Russian aircraft were able to hit multiple targets in a single sortie for the first time. The vulnerability of Russian aircraft to enemy attack was reduced by decreasing the amount of time spent in areas vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire from the ground and by the widespread incorporation of technology that allows Russian strike aircraft to fly at night. Finally, the Russian Air Force also used for the first time unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide targeting information to strike aircraft and to collect data on the effectiveness of bombing sorties in hitting targets.

At the same time, the Russian military sought to limit the amount of new weapons expended. These munitions are relatively expensive when compared to unguided bombs. Moreover, the air force has limited quantities of PGMs in its arsenal and did not wish to expend them on targets when the use of such weapons is unnecessary.

The land-attack cruise missile (LACM) strikes against Syrian targets, launched in October 2015 from relatively small missile ships in the Caspian Sea, were primarily intended to serve as a demonstration of Russia’s capabilities. The attacks were launched from three Buyan M-class corvettes and a Gepard-class frigate and flew over Iranian and Iraqi territory on their way to their targets. They were not necessary for the success of the operation, which could have been carried out perfectly well by Russian aircraft already in Syria. By launching missiles from the Caspian, Russia demonstrated that it could launch strikes from ships well inside Russia’s air defense perimeter. The real goal was to show NATO military planners (and neighboring states) that Russia has a new standoff land-attack missile capability that can be difficult to neutralize.

Russia’s demonstration of new naval strike capabilities continued in December 2015 when Kalibr LACMs were launched against targets from a recently constructed diesel submarine operating in the Mediterranean Sea. This launch of LACMs from hard-to-track submarines further highlighted the potential threat posed by Russian naval vessels against Russia’s potential opponents. These strikes were closely coordinated with the air force, which sent out a sizeable percentage of its long-range aviation to conduct strikes against the Islamic State. This force included five Tu-160, six Tu-95MS, and 14 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, which launched Kh-555 and Kh-101 cruise missiles and also dropped gravity bombs on targets in Raqqa. These cruise missiles, with a range of approximately 2000 kilometers, had never been used in combat. While a number of analysts dismissed the tactics used by the long-range aviation as outdated, the goal of the operation was to highlight the combat readiness of the aircraft rather than the kinds of tactics the service would actually use in combat against an adversary that can defend against strikes by strategic aviation.

Unexpected Ability to Deploy and Sustain Operations out of Area

Until last September, most analysts (including myself) argued that Russia was not capable of conducting a military operation away from its immediate neighborhood, as its military lacked the ability to transport significant numbers of personnel or equipment to remote theaters of operations. However, the Russian military was able to transport the necessary equipment and personnel by pressing into service the vast majority of its large transport aircraft and almost all naval transport ships located in the European theater. Furthermore, it reflagged several Turkish commercial cargo vessels as Russian navy ships and pressed them into service to transport equipment to Syria. While Russia remains almost completely dependent on its rail network for military transport, the operation in Syria has shown that it has sufficient sea- and airlift capability to carry out a small operation away from its borders and that it can increase that capacity in innovative ways.

Russia’s initial planning for its Syrian operation assumed that it would continue for three to six months. The slow initial progress by Syrian government forces in retaking territory combined with the perception of an increased threat to Russian interests from both ISIS and Turkey, resulted in an expansion of operations. Russia began to use at least two additional Syrian airbases more conveniently located for providing air support for Syrian government offensives in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Each base used by Russian aircraft requires protection, which led to the deployment of additional artillery batteries. Despite an increase in forces, the Russian military has not had problems resupplying its troops and was ready to continue operations in Syria for the indefinite future.

The recent announcement that Russia would begin to withdraw its forces from Syria does not necessarily mean that the operation is ending. In the same announcement, President Vladimir Putin ordered Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to keep all existing bases in Syria open and operating at present levels. Russian air defense systems and some aircraft are likely to remain in Syria. This will allow for a quick return of Russian forces to Syria if the political and military situation warrants it.


Russia’s operation in Syria sought to accomplish multiple goals. Apart from its geopolitical objectives, it was designed to test improvements in Russian military capabilities resulting from military reforms carried out over the last seven years and to highlight these improvements to potential adversaries. Although the Russian operation was initially slow in helping the Syrian government turn the tide against its opponents—and the impact of recent offensives and the subsequent ceasefire remains to be seen—it is clear that these reforms have resulted in a significant increase in Russia’s warfighting capability.

The US Army is upping its game.

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 15:06
via Defense News. For example, the 82nd Airborne Division’s Global Response Force element conducted a no-notice exercise in February, jumping into Fort Hood, Texas, to conduct a weapons of mass...

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

2nd Cavalry "Reaper Troop" by Sgt. William A. Tanner

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 14:39
Does anyone have information on the status of the Mobile Gun System?  Last I heard it was still unreliable.  With the moves the Army is making to get 2nd Cav sorted out and ready to fight,...

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

KC-390 glamour shot!

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 14:20

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

When an American does stupid shit overseas, what is our responsiblity to help?

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 10:49
via CNN Warmbier had traveled to Pyongyang on a trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based travel company. He was arrested on January 2, 2016, as he was about to board a plane to leave the...

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Highlights - Hearing on the crisis in Syria and the role of international and regional actors - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

The public hearing "The crisis in Syria and the role of international and regional actors: security implications for Europe" was held on 16 March with researchers closely working on the issue and a representative from the EEAS. The hearing provided a better understanding of the situation on the ground, a vital requirement for bringing the conflict to an end.
Further information
Presentation by Michael Benhamou, Researcher and former Fellow at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies
hearing documents
Source : © European Union, 2016 - EP

Highlights - Securing commercial shipping lanes against piracy - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

On 16 March, SEDE held an exchange of views on securing commercial shipping lanes against piracy with representatives from EU NAVFOR Somalia, the Baltic and International Maritime Council and the European Commission. Please find below the presentations by the speakers.
Further information
Draft agenda and meeting documents
Presentation by Simon Church, Industry Liaison Officer EU NAVFOR
Presentation by Giles Noakes, Chief Maritime Security Officer, BIMCO
Source : © European Union, 2016 - EP

Is this how cyber security works now?

Snafu-solomon.blogspot - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 10:08
For the last day and a half I've been experiencing problems with Google services.  No big deal, I just flexed into Microsoft or Firefox (most the fox...MS Edge looks nice but I'm not willing to...

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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Video of a committee meeting - Wednesday, 16 March 2016 - 15:05 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

Length of video : 155'
You may manually download this video in WMV (1.4Gb) format

Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2016 - EP

Latest news - The next SEDE meeting - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

will take place on Wednesday 20 April, 9:00-12:30 and 15:00-18:30, and Thursday 21 April, 9:00-12:30 in Brussels.

Organisations or interest groups who wish to apply for access to the European Parliament will find the relevant information below.

Further information
watch the meeting live
Access rights for interest group representatives
Source : © European Union, 2016 - EP

Securing the ‘middle spaces’: geography, strategy and the future of European power

European Geostrategy (Blog) - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 08:55

In this final Long Post in a five-part series on defence and the EU Global Strategy, Luis Simón argues that any European strategy must not neglect the geopolitically relevant spaces in between Europe and Asia.

The post Securing the ‘middle spaces’: geography, strategy and the future of European power appeared first on European Geostrategy.

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

USCG commissions 16th Sentinel-class fast response cutter Winslow Griesser

Naval Technology - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 01:00
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has commissioned its 16th fast response cutter (FRC), Winslow Griesser, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

USS Kentucky to begin its first strategic deterrent mission since 2011

Naval Technology - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 01:00
The US Navy's Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) has left from the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to engage in its first strategic deterrent mission since 2011.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Saab Grintek Defence to deliver TactiCall system to South African Navy

Naval Technology - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 01:00
Saab Grintek Defence has been contracted by Armscor's Institute for Maritime Technology to deliver the TactiCall integrated communications system for the South African Navy.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Raytheon to equip Canadian Halifax frigates with new weapon stations

Naval Technology - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 01:00
Raytheon Canada has been contracted by the Government of Canada to provide a new weapon system to the Royal Canadian Navy.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Comtech secures contract extension for US SPAWAR’s ATIP programme

Naval Technology - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 01:00
Comtech Telecommunications has announced the award of a contract extension from US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

LM Self-Funding F-16 | US Army Awards Boeing $896M Contract for CH-4Fs | Poland Investing $21B to Replace IFVs

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 00:20

  • Lockheed Martin is using company money to fund suppliers for continued production of the F-16. The move comes as the manufacturer aims to prevent the closure of the jet’s production line, as it awaits the finalized orders from Pakistan and chases new business. Without any new orders, the line will have to close next year after delivering the last of 36 F-16s ordered by Iraq. Lockheed officials have mentioned a number of potential clients including Bahrain, Colombia, Indonesia, and India.

  • The second prototype of the CH-53K helicopter made its maiden flight in January according to Lockheed company Sikorsky. In addition, the first aircraft into the test program has achieved flight envelope expansion to 120 knots for the USMC’s CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter program. The two are the most heavily instrumented of the Engineering Development Models (EDM) and will focus on structural flight loads and envelope expansion. Two more will join the flight line later this year and will focus on performance, propulsion, and avionics flight qualification.

  • The US Army has awarded an $896 million contract to Boeing to refurbish 27 CH-47F Chinook military airlift helicopters and to buy an additional 12 units. The CH-27F upgrade of the troop transport aircraft was completed in 2006. The modification to the contract increases the funds initially going to Boeing for the work by $30 million. Completion of the upgrades and delivery of the new units is expected by December 20, 2020.

Middle East & North Africa

  • Bell Helicopters are to supply three UH-1H Huey II helicopters to the government of Lebanon. The $18.9 million contract is expected to be completed by March 2017, and is part of an order for 18 Huey II helicopters for Lebanon approved by the US Department of State in September 2014. While initially designed as a troop transport and support helicopter, it has been pressed into service by Lebanon as a bomber. For this role they were fitted with extended undercarriage skids and improvised bomb racks for the delivery of 250 kg (550 lb) and 400 kg (880 lb) bombs.

  • Saudi Arabian Royal Airforce has taken delivery of two KC-130J tankers from Lockheed. The aerial refuelers were acquired by the Kingdom through a Foreign Military Sales program with the US government. The delivery comes as the USAF awarded manufacturer Lockheed Martin $106 million modification contract for the continued production of 11 variations of the C-130J aircraft. Work on two C-130J-30, three HC-130J, five MC-130J and one KC-130J is expected to be completed by July 31, 2017.


  • Poland is to invest $21 billion in replacing its Soviet-designed BWP-1 and BWP-2 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). The government is currently looking at options for the replacement with a potential joint procurement with the Czech Republic. Warsaw may also partner with local manufacturer Huta Stalowa Wola who acquired the license for South Korea’s K9 chassis for use with its ASM Krab 155mm self-propelled howitzer.

  • The UK government is to cut the baseline profit rate for single source defense contracts. The Single Source Regulations Office has recommended cutting the baseline rate at 8.95% as the Minister of Defence (MoD) attempts to bring Britain in line with defense suppliers in Western Europe and North America. According to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the new rate “provides a fair return to industry while delivering savings that will be reinvested in defense.” It is expected the government will save $283 million from the change.

Asia Pacific

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has successfully test fired FZ 70mm rockets during weapons trials of its prototype TD-3 Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). The next weapon systems scheduled to be tested on the helicopter are the on board 20 mm Giat-Nexter turret gun and MBDA Mistral-2 air-to-air missile. The Indian Air Force has also announced that the planned testing of Astra’s beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) is on schedule, and the missile is on course to be inducted into the air force next year.

Today’s Video

  • EA-6 Prowler Equipped With AGM-88 HARM Anti-Radar Missile:

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

The New Chinooks: Boeing’s Modern H-47 Heavy-Lift Helicopters

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 00:19
CH-47Fs take off
(click to view full)

DII FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record; this FOCUS Article covers the CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook helicopter programs, in the USA and abroad. These helicopters’ distinctive “flying banana” twin-rotor design stems from the brilliant work of aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki. It gives Chinooks the ability to adjust their positioning very precisely, while carrying a large airframe whose load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030.

The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models, but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. While the related HH-47’s $10-15 billion CSAR-X program win was terminated, delivery orders continue for CH-47Fs and for MH-47G Special Forces configuration helicopters. International orders or formal requests have also come in from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UAE, with India and other countries expected to follow.

The New Chinooks: CH-47F, MH-47G, HH-47 CH-47F Family: Initial Improvements CH-47D Chinooks
(click to view full)

These new aircraft are part of the U.S. Army Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program, but they are based on a long-serving basic design. The CH-47F Chinook and MH-47G Special Ops version are the latest variants in a family of helicopters that first saw service in 1962 during the Vietnam War. New “F/G” models feature numerous upgrades over CH-47Ds (produced 1982-1994), including more powerful engines, reduced vibration, upgraded avionics and self-defense systems, and manufacturing advances designed to improve both mission performance and long term costs.

Engines & Fuel: The new CH-47F has 4,868 shaft horsepower (SHP) from each of its twin T55-GA-714A engines, improving fuel efficiency and enhancing lift performance by approximately 3,900 pounds. The new engines will enable the CH-47F to reach speeds in excess of 175 mph and transport up to 21,016 pounds. As a point of comparison, the original CH-47A’s T55-L7 engines generated 2,650 SHP each, and the CH-47D’s T55-L-712 turboshaft engines produced 3,750 SHP. This improved power will also pay dividends in high-altitude or hot environments, as all aircraft suffer performance penalties in such “hot and high” conditions.

The new Robertson Aviation Extended Range Fuel System of internal auxiliary fuel tanks gives the CH-47F a mission radius greater than 400 miles. Other airframe modifications improve the helicopter’s strategic deployability, reducing the time required for aircraft tear down and build-up by about 60% when deploying them via a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft.

CAAS in MH-47: edited
(click to view full)

Cockpit & Avionics: The new digital cockpit design improves interoperability via the US Army’s Common Aviation Architecture System cockpit, simplifying pilot training and workload. CAAS creates a package that offers Digital Advanced Flight Control System (DAFCS) , displays and avionics. That’s enhanced with moving maps, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and multimode radar pictures for nap-of-earth and low-level flight operations in any visibility or weather, and an advanced data transfer system to store preflight and mission data. Because this is built on the CAAS foundation, expansion, modernization, and even cross-upgrades developed for other helicopters are all thinkable.

Survivability: New survivability features include a Common Missile Warning installation, and Improved Countermeasure Dispenser Systems. The US Army’s ATIRCM contract was intended to round that out with a next-generation defensive system for active laser decoying of enemy guided missiles, and is employed on CH-47s, but turned out to be too heavy to install on the Army’s smaller helicopters. It was limited to CH-47 installations, and terminated.

If the Army’s new CIRCM program to field lighter devices reaches fruition, it will eventually become a common system for all Army machines, and replace ATIRCM via retrofits.

Manufacturing Advances CH-47F: mid-conversion
(click to view full)

The remanufacture process has become more extensive than the original plans, and now involves wholesale replacement of key sections. The incoming helicopter has its propulsion systems removed and sent for overhaul/replacement, and the cockpit is cut off. What’s left is the aft fuselage and cabin, which is blast stripped to bare metal, inspected, and then has appropriate sections repaired or replaced. True manufacturing splices allow full modularity with large airframe sections, which can be mixed and matched if inspection reveals a need to replace other elements.

Throughout this process, Boeing has pushed to reduce manufacturing costs and improve production efficiency by outsourcing significant sub-sections to firms like L-3 Crestview (new cabins), using lean manufacturing processes on the factory floor, and using related techniques like employee involvement teams.

The new airframe itself is built utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques where large single-piece components replace built-up sheet metal structures and aluminum honeycomb formers. Boeing spokespeople have cited 35% reductions in parts and fastener totals. Doing it this way is expected to reduce operating and support costs while improving the structural integrity of the aircraft, extending the overall useful life of each Chinook. Further structural enhancements in key locations, and advanced corrosion protection via special paints, should also improve durability and lead to longer service life.

2011 British orders have taken another step beyond, to CH-47F models with “machined monolithic” frames. CH-47F Phase II and new-build MH-47G helicopters followed suit.

Variants MH-47G, Jackal Stone 2010
(click to view full)

MH-47G. These Chinooks are optimized for Special Forces operations. The most obvious difference is the big aerial refueling tube at the front. Less obvious modifications include extra fuel in enlarged side fuel tanks, additional sensors for surveillance, “aircraft survivability equipment,” dual embedded Global Positioning Systems, a redundant navigator for improved accuracy and reliability, and various advanced datalinks that allow the display of Near Real Time Intelligence Data (NRTID). Almost all MH-47Gs are rebuilt from existing helicopters, but a recent contract is producing 8 new-build birds.

HH-47 CASR. This modified MH-47G successfully lifted off as the $4-10 billion CSAR-X combat search and rescue competition’s winning entry in November 2006. That model still exists, and some of its features have been incorporated at the request of other CH-47F customers like Canada and the Netherlands, but the CSAR-X program was canceled in 2009 after a series of successful GAO protests by the losing contractors. The USAF wound up buying much smaller CRH-60M Pave Hawks instead.

Planned MYP-II improvements CH-47F maintenance
(click to view full)

Cargo & Lift: Initial CH-47Fs don’t offer much beyond the new engines and improved construction, but Phase II/ MYP-II helicopters will have some additions that will be retrofitted back into the rest of the fleet.

The first cargo advance is called COOLS (Cargo On/Off Loading System), and consists of floor panels that flip over, to reveal loading rollers. COOLS panels are expected to begin deploying in February 2013, and their presence will have the side effect of improving floor protection against small arms fire. Chinook modernization manager Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl explained its importance:

“Right now we have a system that is not on the aircraft. We have to bring it on. What happens now when you are flying is you take off and, if you have a change of mission, you have to go pick up pallets. You can’t push pallets on this floor as it is now. With COOLS, the rolls are going to be built into the floor, so if you have a change of mission you just flip the floor up [and roll the pallets onboard].”

The other advances in this area won’t begin with MYP-II buys, but will be introduced into the production line later, and then added as a retrofit. A new set of composite Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades (ACRB) are projected to able to add another 1,800-pounds of lift capability, thanks to their design. The blades have already gone through some wind-tunnel testing, and are slated for fielding in 2016.

Boeing is also working on an update to the CH-47F’s Improved Vibration Control system, which will be lighter and will have obsolete electronic components replaced.

Maintenance: A number of Boeing’s manufacturing advances are aimed at reducing maintenance, but more can be done. The CHPE (Cargo Platform Health Environment) program of embedded diagnostic and prognostic sensors began installation validation in May 2012, and is slated for MYP-II/ Phase II CH-47Fs. These kinds of HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) offer make basic maintenance like rotor track and balance easier, and make diagnosing wider helicopter problems and fleet trends much easier. That saves a lot of money on maintenance, and improves availability in service.

The USA’s Acquisition Plan CH-47 Assembly Line
(click to view full)

The US Army’s original plan was revised upward a few times from the original 452, and went as high as 533 helicopters in 2012, before coming back to the same place it began in April 2013.

The FY 2014 budget would leave the US military with 451 machines, made up of 382 CH-47Fs and 69 MH-47Gs.

Under the current plan, the Army is modernizing 206 CH-47D Chinooks to the new F-model configuration, while also buying 176 new-build CH-47F Chinooks. New build and refurbished CH-47s are being bought side by side, in order to keep more operational helicopters out of the factory lines and on the front lines.

In the wake of operational success in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) moved to increase its MH-47G Chinook inventory to 69 machines, adding 8 new helicopters to its 61 remanufactured machines.

The CH-47F was expected to enter service in July 2007, and did receive a US Army go-ahead for full-rate production and fielding that month; it was certified as combat ready with the 101st Airborne in August 2007.

Under a multi-year contract awarded in August 2008, Boeing received 28 orders in 2009, and then began a graduated delivery rate ramp-up through successive years. Boeing submitted a proposal for a CH-47F MYP-II buy to begin in 2013, and that contract was finally signed in May 2013. Note that Foreign Military Sales are available as options under these contracts, if the countries involved want to take advantage of that.

The USAF’s CSAR-X program could have added another 141 HH-47 helicopters, but it was canceled following competitive protests. That saga is detailed in its own article set. CSAR-X was eventually canceled, though the USAF is still looking for a combat search and rescue option via its “CRH” solicitation.

Global Contracts and Key Events CH-47F & CH-47D
(click to view full)

Customer Orders: US Army (532 planned), US SOCOM (61 planned), Australia (7), Britain (14), Canada (15), Italy (16), the Netherlands (6/9), Turkey (6+/14), United Arab Emirates (6+/16).

Unless otherwise noted, key program events and related awards noted below are assumed to be US orders from Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL; issued to The Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA.

Note that contracts to Boeing are not all-inclusive, by any means. As an example, they include installation of Honeywell’s engines, but not the engines themselves, which are “Government Furnished Equipment” (GFE) bought under a separate contract. In a related vein, the purchase contract is usually accompanied by advance materials and “long lead items” contracts earlier. The actual price of a combat-ready CH-47F will be very different.

FY 2016

Canadian CH-147
(click to view full)

March 17/16: The US Army has awarded an $896 million contract to Boeing to refurbish 27 CH-47F Chinook military airlift helicopters and to buy an additional 12 units. The CH-27F upgrade of the troop transport aircraft was completed in 2006. The modification to the contract increases the funds initially going to Boeing for the work by $30 million. Completion of the upgrades and delivery of the new units is expected by December 20, 2020.

January 19/16: The upgrade program of the Chinook CH-47F looks to be shortly approved after a successful meeting at the Army Systems Acquisition Review Council. All that is required for the project to be green lit, is a signed decision memorandum that will allow the service to release a request for proposals for its “Block II” upgrade program. While little is known of the exact upgrades that will be part of the program, it is believed that changes will be made to the electrical system, transmission and rotor system, as well as increasing the helicopter payload by 4,000 pounds to 54,000.

October 14/15: The Army will likely release a Request for Proposals for the CH-47 Chinook Block 2 program early next year; however the enhancements required by the Army have yet to be finalized. Janes reports that one of the possible technologies set for inclusion in the Block 2 package is the Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB), thought capable of adding an additional 1,800lb of lift capacity, with the Army having already invested $17.9 million in March 2013 to develop the technology.

FY 2015

September 10/15: Flightglobal reports that the Netherlands plans to procure 14 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, upgrade its six existing F model aircraft, and retire ten older D models. The new F models will not be in the CH-47F (NL) configuration as per previous orders, owing to budgetary constraints, but will instead be modified US Army CH-47F designs, acquired through the Foreign Military Sales program and scheduled for delivery in 2019. The $1 billion project will eventually see the Dutch operate 20 upgraded CH-47F helicopters, which will boast new VHF radios, self-protection equipment and fast-rope insertion/extraction systems, among other upgrades.

August 10/15: The Army wants to restart production of the Boeing MH-47G Chinook special mission helicopter in a new Block II design. With eight Block I variants scheduled for delivery by the end of 2015, the specific upgrades incorporated into the Block II version have not been disclosed. The first MH-47G Block I was delivered in October 2014, with the pace of SOCOM operations driving the requirement for new build helicopters. The new Block II variants will reportedly replace some or all of SOCOM’s 61 Block I MH-47Gs.

May 6/15: The first pair of F-model CH-47 helicopters have entered service with the Australian Army, with five more scheduled for delivery by August. The seven helicopters were ordered in 2010 contract along with training simulators and spares for $470 million. The Aussie F models are US-configured, in comparison to other international customers such as the UK and Canada which ordered modified versions.

Oct 15/14: Brazil. Boeing spokesman Scott Day says that “We have had some early discussions about the Chinook with the Brazilian Army,” but said the potential order is “not a large one.”

Brazil’s military doesn’t have any helicopters as large as the CH-47F. The closest they get is AS532 Super Puma medium helicopters and their more modern iteration, the EC725 Cougar. A small number of CH-47s would be very useful for hauling heavier cargo loads into remote areas without an airstrip, and especially for recovery of other helicopters. Sources: WKZO, “Exclusive: Boeing eyes possible Chinook helicopter sale to Brazil”.

FY 2014 – 2015

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March 25/15: The Netherlands looks set to receive 17 CH-47F helicopters in a $1.05 billion Foreign Military Sale from the US. The new aircraft will replace the Netherlands’s existing fleet of CH-47D variants and will complement a previous sale of CH-47Fs in 2006.

Sept 29/14: new MH-47G. Boeing delivers the first new-build MH-47G to US Army Army Special Operations Aviation Command a full month ahead of schedule, as part of an 8-helicopter, $300 million program that will last through 2015.

Production improvements on the new-build models include more robust, improved monolithic machined-frames that were pioneered for the British Chinook Mk.6 (q.v. Aug 22/11), a digital flight control system, and improved air transportability. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers First New-Build MH-47G Special Operations Chinook”.

Sept 26/14: Support. A 5+ year, $499.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for American H-47 helicopter support services, encompassing engineering, logistics, data analysis, technical data reproduction, supportability, and management requirements for pre-through post-production, sustainment, and fleet support of all H-47 variants.

Delivery order 0001 is exercised immediately, and the rest will be allocated as needed, with work location and funding determined for each order. The support contract runs until Dec 31/19. Bids were solicited via the internet, with 1 received (W58RGZ-14-D-0075).

5-year H-47 support contract

Sept 15/14: Upgrades. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $27.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to develop, test, and bench qualify a modified electrical system for the CH-47.

Fiscal 2014 other funds in the amount of $27,700,422 were obligated at the time of the award. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0308).

Aug 29/14: India. The new BJP government’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) makes a number of key moves, beginning with cancellation of the 197-helicopter Light Utility Helicopter competition. At the same time, however, DAC effectively cleared the purchase of 15 CH-47F Chinook and 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, by approving Boeing’s industrial offset proposals. Sources: Defense News, “India Cancels $1 Billion Light Helicopter Tender” | Financial Express, “Make in India kicks off with defence deals” | Indian Express, “Centre scraps light utility helicopter tender, opens it to Indian players” | NDTV, “Modi Government Drops Rs 6000-Crore Foreign Chopper Plan, Wants ‘Made in India'”.

July 31/14: Engines. Honeywell Aerospace International, Phoenix, Arizona, was awarded a $121.9 million initial foreign military sales contract order, on behalf of Turkey, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Note that Morocco isn’t a CH-47F customer, but their request for 3 CH-47Ds included the uprated 714A engines.

It’s the 1st order under a new contract covering up to 440 total T55-GA-714A engines and 365 T55-GA-714A engine fielding kits. All funds for this order are committed immediately, but the wider contract will have a total potential value well north of $121 million.

Work will be performed until Dec 31/18 in Phoenix, AZ. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-14-C-0021, PO 0001).

July 29/14: 1st Phase II. Boeing delivers the first CH-47F Phase II to the U.S. Army, 1 month ahead of schedule, in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, PA. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers First U.S. Army Multiyear II Configured Chinook”.

1st CH-47F Phase II

July 22/14: COOLS. A $65.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 204 Cargo On/Off Loading System (COOLS) A-Kits; 204 COOLS B-Kits; and 22 COOLS Ballistic Protection System (BPS) Kits. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Army budgets. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 29/19.

COOLS (Cargo On/Off Loading System) consists of floor panels that flip over to reveal loading rollers. Before the CH-47F Phase II was introduced, the loading rollers had to be installed independently. That made loading and unloading supply pallets much more difficult and tedious. In contrast, metal COOLS floors can be flipped in place in minutes, while providing extra ballistic protection as a bonus (W58RGZ-14-C-0063).

May 22/14: +1 CH-47F. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $25.9 million contract modification under the multi-year contract, exercising an option for 1 CH-47F Chinook helicopter. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Army budgets.

Note that this isn’t the full purchase price of a CH-47F, which also has Government Furnished Equipment aboard that is bought under other contracts. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/20 (W58RGZ-13-C-0002, PO 0009).

April 17/14: Support. A $43.3 million contract modification for new equipment and equipment training to Army units receiving the CH-47F. All funds are committed immediately, using Army FY 2014 budgets. Work will run until Feb 29/16, at continental United States and overseas locations (W58RGZ-13-C-0114, PO 0003).

April 9/14: An $8.9 million modification to the MYP-II contract, covering overruns for Production Lot 12 and advance buys for Lot 13. All funds are committed from FY 2011, 2012 and 2014 budgets. Estimated completion date is Dec 31/20. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (W58RGZ-13-C-0002, PO 0008).

April 3/14: Phase II. A $19 million contract modification to integrate improved drive train development, as part of the CH-47F Phase II Aircraft Component Improvement Program. All funds are committed immediately, from FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Estimated completion date is May 29/15 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0307).

March 18/14: Phase II. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $15.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee to develop and test a CH-47F Phase II Lightweight Fuel System as part of the Airframe Component Improvement Program. Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA until March 15/17. Bids were solicited via the Web, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

strong>Dec 26/13: +28 CH-47F. Boeing in Ridley, Park, PPA receives a $617.7 million order for FY 2014 production, under the current multi-year contract (q.v. June 11-17/13): 22 remanufactured CH-47Fs, 6 new CH-47Fs, and long lead funding for remanufacturing 13 CH-47F helicopters in FY 2015. Note that the FY 2015 budget projections called for 30 remanufactured helicopters.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 other procurement funds. Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA, and the estimated completion date for the contract is listed as Dec 31/20 (W58RGZ-14-C-0003, PO 004).

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The MH-47 gets some good news, thanks to a better armoring system:

“The Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD), contracting with The Protective Group, completed work on this project during FY13. They developed a non?permanent armor to fit under the floor of the MH-47 helicopter cabin. The goal was to maintain the same minimum level of ballistic protection as the fielded armor, with better durability and less installed weight. Locating the armor under the cabin floor panels greatly reduces the wear and increases its lifespan. The designers also developed an installation and removal system that is lightweight, requires minimal aircraft modification and manpower, and does not interfere with maintenance requirements, mission equipment, or cargo loading systems. The project demonstrated armor panel installation and removal in minutes and achieved a 34 percent reduction in weight over the currently fielded ballistic protection system.”

FY 2013

FY 2013-2017 multi-year deal; +1 MH-47G; Late Dutch deliveries finally begin; Preferred bidder in India; Prospects in Libya?; DVE system for MH-47Gs to help see in tough conditions. CH-47F got moves
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Sept 27/13: Libya order? The Libya Herald reports that the country is looking to buy transport helicopters, in order to reach remote communities and vastly improve border control. IHS Jane’s and Boeing both report that the Chinook is a serious contender. Despite Libya’s past as an anti-American state and Soviet client, they have a long history with the CH-47 thanks to license-built sales from Italy’s AgustaWestland. Most of their 20 Chinooks were destroyed in the civil war, with just 1 reportedly flying.

The Chinook can expect competition from options like Eurocopter’s EC725, and the most interesting question might be whether the CH-47F deal with AgustaWestland includes Libya within the June 2008 agreement’s export zone, and under what terms. The other big question is the size of Libya’s desired order. Senior Boeing manager Steve Barlage said in August that the desired order was more of a full replacement: 6 CH-47Ds and 16 CH-47Fs. Recent accounts, however, involve just 6 CH-47Ds, which could be taken from American or Canadian stocks and sold through Boeing.

Libya has vast potential oil riches, but the country is in somewhat poor shape, and oil production has plunged sharply to under 100,000 barrels per day in the wake of strikes and disorder at key terminals. At the same time, US government financing to backstop arms deals is limited. There are ways to square that circle, including an export order from AgustaWestland that leverages Italian export credits, but it’s all up to Libya. Sources: Libya Herald, “Military considers $700 million Chinook helicopter deal” | Defense News, “US Firms Eye Late Entry Into Libyan Defense Market” | SKy News Australia, “Libya oil production slumps over strike”.

Sept 27/13: +7 MH-47G. A $78.2 million firm-fixed-price contract finalizes an order for 7 new-build MH-47G helicopters, which is the total for that type under the recent multi-year contract (q.v. June 11-17/13).

Even as bare airframes, this amount seems a bit low (q.v. Dec 11/12). The final cost of each ready-to operate MH-47G is, of course, considerably higher. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA. One bid was solicited and 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0275503).

Sept 27/13: MH-47 DVE. The Technical Applications Contracting Office in Fort Eustis, VA issues 3 contracts to develop and field “the degraded visual environments (DVE) system.” DVE will “integrate information from [MH-47E/G and MH-60K/L/M helicopter] sensors,” in order to help aircrews perm their missions through rain, fog, sand brownouts, etc. Dust-driven brownouts are an especially prevalent killer in many operating theaters, and the advanced sensors already on board US SOCOM’s helicopters offer an interesting option for cutting through the clutter. See also: US Army, “Army acquiring ‘brown-out’ assistance for helos” for additional context regarding this area in general. This area is being pursued by a number of US military programs, and by a number of private companies.

The 60-month SOCOM DVE contracts were awarded from 5 offers received in response to the solicitation, and they will run until Aug 31/17. Winners include:

Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA wins a maximum $22.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost reimbursement contract, with $1.3 million in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0008).

Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a maximum $22.6 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee DVE contract, with $624,013 in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0010).

Boeing in Philadelphia, PA wins a maximum $23 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee DVE contract, with $2.1 million in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0011).

July 18/13: Support. A maximum $39.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for helicopter support and personnel training services, aimed at units receiving the CH-47F. FY 2013 procurement funds are being used, and 1 bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-13-C-0114).

June 24/13: Italy. The Italian Army’s 1st ICH-47F Chinook performs its 15-minute maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate plant in Italy. Under the joint agreement, AW makes the drive systems, handles system integration for Italy’s unique requirements, and performs final assembly. They also have the same kind of wider export permission in their region that they enjoyed with the CH-47C.

Italy ordered up to 20 ICH-47Fs (16 + 4 options – q.v. May 13/09), to replace the 1st Regiment’s 40 CH-47Cs that entered service in 1973. Delivery of this 1st helicopter is scheduled for early 2014, with final deliveries in 2017. AgustaWestland | Read “Italy Buying CH-47F Helicopters” for more.

June 11-17/13: MYP. A $3.414 billion firm-fixed-price, multi-year contract for remanufactured and new-build CH-47F cargo helicopters, with $1.317 billion of FY 2011-2013 funds committed immediately. Boeing announces it as a contract for 177 helicopters from FY 2013 – 2017, which could rise to 215. If it does rise that high, the Pentagon announces the contract maximum as $4.984 billion. Boeing is touting up to $800 million of savings vs. single-year buys, plus a $130 million investment they’ve already made to modernize the Chinook factory in Pennsylvania.

The Pentagon adds that a portion of the initial contract involves foreign military sales for Turkey and the UAE. The USA’s FY 2013 budget submission involved just 155 helicopters and $373 million in savings, for a total of $3.363 billion. That indicates another 22 helicopters in this base order, but Turkey and the UAE together have just 16 helicopters left in their DSCA requests (8 each), so the numbers don’t add immediately.

As of this date, there were 241 CH-47Fs in the Army and National Guard, with 15 units operating them and a 16th being equipped. CH-47F units have logged more than 86,000 combat hours in Afghanistan, maintaining an operational readiness rate of over 80%, compared to equally new technology like the V-22 tilt-rotor whose readiness rate is 70% or less. Boeing cites a final Army target of 464 CH-47Fs, including 24 to replace helicopters that have been lost, but that’s at variance with FY 2014 Pentagon budget documents (W58RGZ-13-C-0002). Boeing.

Multi-Year Contract:
177 – 215 helicopters

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage.

The FY 2013 program plan was 533 helicopters: 237 New Build + 226 remanufactured. The FY 2014 program plan cuts that by 20 remanufactured helicopters (to 207) and 61 new-build helicopters (to 176), but the interesting thing about the cuts is that they mostly take place after 2017. The reason is the multi-year buy proposal, which runs from FY 2013 – 2017. There is a cut of $527 million in the FY 2017 budget projection, and if you look closely, it’s mostly from the total removal of new-build funding that year. The exact impact of these cuts on the entire program’s cost isn’t clear yet, and will have to await a Pentagon Selected Acquisitions Report (SAR).

March 21/13: Improved rotor. A $17.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB) design and engineering services. This blade is slated to be added part-way through CH-47F Block II production, with fielding in 2016. If it performs to spec, it will add another 1,800-pounds of lift capability, and could be retrofitted to the rest of the fleet. See also Aug 4/12 entry.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of March 18/17 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 11/12: +1 MH-47G. A $34.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy 1 MH-47G special operations variant Chinook helicopter. There’s a fair bit of separate equipment that also goes into these, so our standard warning about prices is magnified in this case.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 5/12: India. The Indian government officially announces that Boeing’s CH-47F is its preferred bidder. In India, an “L1” bidder is the one that offers the lowest cost, after all adjustments have been made to the proposal. Depending on the competition, price adjustments could be made as a result of industrial benefits plans, maintenance figures, etc.:

“In the proposal initiated by Indian Air Force (IAF) for procurement of 15 Heavy Lift Helicopters, M/s Boeing with Chinook Helicopter has emerged as the L1 Vendor. The cost of the Contract would depend upon outcome of the Contract negotiation with the L1 Vendor, which has not yet concluded.

The Field Evaluation Trials for these Helicopters conducted by the Indian Air Force have found them to be compliant with all the stated Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs). Divulging further details in this regard may not be in the interest of National security.”

Nov 28/12: Canada. Canada’s DND provides an update re: its 15-helicopter “CH-147” project. They say that the project is currently on-budget for its C$ 2.3 billion procurement phase, and on schedule. The add that Boeing is also on track to meet its target of $1.25 billion in industrial offset commitments. The RCAF currently has 2 CH-47Fs flying, and will continue to fly test missions in 2013.

The first CH-147 is scheduled to arrive on schedule at a new CFB Petawawa, ON facility in June 2013. Helicopters will be delivered at a rate of approximately one aircraft per month, with all aircraft being delivered over a 12-month period, reaching Initial Operational Capability in 2014, as planned. Canada DND.

Nov 19/12: Sub-contractors. Canadian landing gear specialist Heroux-Devtek Inc. in Longeuil, PQ receives a multi-year contract from Boeing to manufacture the landing gear for all US Army CH-47F helicopters bought under MYP-II. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the first half of 2014 and run into 2019. Current MYP-II contract expectations will involve 155 helicopters, but this sub-contract also includes options for up to 150 additional landing gear sets to 2019. America isn’t likely to order another 150 CH-47Fs, but foreign buyers might, and MYP-II lets them benefit from the same bulk-order prices negotiated by the US government.

Heroux-Devtek is already an incumbent landing gear supplier for the CH-47F, thanks to the Sept 24/09 MoU that let them bid to supply all H-47F aircraft delivered to customers outside the United States. In September 2012, they received a license to fabricate replacement parts, and to carry out repair and overhaul services, for the landing gear of all Chinook variants. This agreement completes the trifecta. Heroux-Devtek release [PDF].

Oct 28/12: India. The Ministry of Defence has reportedly designated Boeing’s bid to supply 15 CH-47Fs as the “L-1” (lowest adjusted bid) in Russia’s heavy-lift helicopter competition. If a contract is finalized, the CH-47F will have beaten Russia’s larger and more powerful Mi-26T2, which already serves in India’s armed forces. Both types have proven themselves in Afghanistan, and commercial Mi-26 helicopters have been hired to airlift crashed CH-47Ds back to base.

One key difference? The CH-47F may have just half of the Mi-26’s takeoff weight, but it can be transported in India’s new fleet of C-17A Globemaster heavy-lift jets. That will give an Indian CH-47F fleet a much greater deployment reach. Times of India.

Oct 8/12: Netherlands. The Dutch Armed Forces receives their first 2 CH-47F-NLs, growing their CH-47 fleet to 13 (11 Ds, 2 Fs). The delivery is significantly later than the original date of 2009.

For training purposes, the Luchtmachthanden has stationed 3 training CH-47Ds in Fort Hood, TX. They’ve also set up local training at the School of the Air-Ground Cooperation in Schaarsbergen, including a 10m fixed drop to practice ropedowns. Dutch MvD [in Dutch].

Oct 5/12: Support. Boeing announces a 5-year, $185 million Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) contract to manage production, overhaul and distribution of the Army’s supply of Chinook helicopter rotor blades. This includes older CH-47D models, as well as the CH-47F. Boeing now has performance-based support contracts within the AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey, and international CH-47 programs. They add that:

“Boeing has been collaborating with U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command for several years on ways to improve the tooling used to produce and repair Chinook rotor blades. The company also has increased the efficiency and capacity of its Chinook supply chain through the use of improved asset management and forecasting tools, an enhanced supplier network and a public-private partnership with the Corpus Christi Army Depot.”

Oct 5/12: HUMS. An $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for CH-47F cargo-platform health environment (CPHE) field demonstration kits. Boeing confirms that these embedded HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) will track wear and performance for specific mechanical components and areas. The contract supports initial CPHE fielding, and this aircraft monitoring system is part of the Multi Year II suite of improvements to the CH-47F.

The initial fielding contract, however, is issued under an older agreement. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Oct 4/12: IVCS. A $17.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to qualify Improved Vibration Control Systems for use on the CH-47. Boeing says that IVCS replaces the existing system, reducing weight and issues with part obsolescence. It is not part of the Multi Year II suite of improvements to the CH-47F.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Oct 2/12: COOLS. A $13 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for “cargo on/off loading systems.” Boeing confirms that this contract is for the new Cargo On/Off Loading System (COOLS), which provides a convertible roller/ flat floor surface for the CH-47F, and incidentally improves bullet protection in the floor. COOLS will be installed in all MYP-II Chinooks, and will be retrofitted into all existing F-model Chinooks.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

FY 2012

FY 2012 buys; FY 2013-17 plans; 2nd multi-year US deal for improved CH-47Fs?; Australian & UAE contracts; Survivability. CH-47F, FOB Bastion
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Sept 25/12: Support. A $12.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for CH-47F maintenance. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 11/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Aug 16/12: 50th Anniversary. Boeing marks the 50th anniversary of delivering the first H-47 Chinook military helicopter, making it Boeing’s longest continuously running production program. The company has delivered more than 1,200 Chinooks to 18 operators around the world, and more than 800 still in operation today.

The production line near Philadelphia is about to see the end of a $130 million renovation that will help Boeing increase Chinook production rates without breaking the bank. Boeing says that they are scheduled to deliver nearly 60 Chinooks this year. They have a proposal for a multi-year American buy, and a backlog of foreign orders.

Aug 14/12: Australia/ UAE. An $81.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification of an existing contract for “CH-47F aircraft in support of foreign military sales.” Boeing explains to DID that this converts the existing Bridge Contract for CH-47F Foreign Military Sales (vid. Jan 5/12), formally converting the (now 14) helicopters from a Multi Year I to a Multi Year II configuration with the added floor loading systems, etc. It also establishes firm delivery dates for Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The total contract value is now $451.1 million.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 15/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0010).

Australia & UAE

Aug 14/12: Improved Rotor. A $37.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering services in support of the Advanced Chinook’s rotor blade tooling. Advanced Chinook incorporates a number of modifications to the base CH-47F, and the new rotor blade design is one of the most important ones.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Aug 7/12: AVMS. Boeing announces that it will embark on Phase II of its Adaptive Vehicle Management System (AVMS), an advanced flight control system that’s designed to improve maneuverability and performance. It achieves these goals by adapting the flight controls to the aircraft’s flight condition, environment and even computed pilot intent.

The $18 million U.S. Army contract is a joint development project between Boeing and the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) and will encompass more than 100 hours of flight test time. In Phase II, the team will fly the AVMS system on the modified Boeing H-6 helicopter used in Phase I, as well as on the larger Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.

May 16/12: MH-47G. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $17 million firm-fixed-price and cost-no-fee contract for MH-47G helicopter infrared exhaust suppressors, including systems components, initial fielding spares and spare parts.

Work location will be determined with each task order, until May 10/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Fort Eustis, VA (W91215-12-D-0001).

April 9/12: A $26.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for “services in support of the Chinook cargo helicopter advance procurement, long lead items.” Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

April 4/12: US Army Plans. US Army CH-47 F-model project manager Lt. Col. Brad Killen states that the Army plans to have a “pure” fleet of 440 F-model Chinooks by 2018, thanks to a combination of CH-47F buys and upgrades. So far, the Army has accepted 169 CH-47Fs, and its long history of upgrades still includes the first CH-47A ever delivered. About 50 years later, it’s serving in Afghanistan, as a CH-47D.

Lt. Col. Killen has a colleague, thanks to the Army’s recent move to install a Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl as the special program manager for CH-47F modernization. Key initiatives includes the new composite rotor blade, slated for flight testing in summer 2015; the COOLS Cargo On/Off Loading System of flippable rotors, which will begin fielding in February 2013; and the CHPE Cargo Platform Health Environment of embedded diagnostic and prognostic sensors, which begins installation validation in May 2012. US Army.

Feb 13/12: FY 2013 budget. The US Army request is $1,462.3 million for 44 CH-47Fs. $1,159.4 million will fund 19 new-build and 19 remanufactured/Service Life Extension Program helicopters, while another $231.3 million buys 6 Overseas Contingency CH-47Fs to replace combat losses. The accompanying document says that:

“Protection of the CH-47 is a major part of the Army’s continued focus on aviation and maintaining an effective Aviation Modernization program, specifically modernization of the Army Rotary Wing fleet. The Department requests funding for procurement of 25 new F-model aircraft while remanufacturing 19 more. Also, funding will be used for further improvements and upgrades, including a loading system to enable rapid reconfiguration from cargo to passenger missions. Funding in FY 2013 is $1.2 billion and totals $5.7 billion from FY 2013 – FY 2017.”

Feb 13/12: +32 CH-47F. A $676 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 32 CH-47F new build helicopter airframes, plus installation of GFE equipment like engines, etc. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Feb 13/12: A $21.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering initial production fielding support for each new equipment training site equipped with the CH-47 cargo helicopter.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0093).

Feb 13/12: Cargo upgrade. A $13.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to manufacture and test 5 Cargo On-and-Off Loading System prototypes. As noted above, this is a proposed modification to the existing CH-47F.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E on Survivability. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The CH-47 is cited as a system performing well on all measures, but there were some interesting notes about survivability:

“Rotorcraft Sponson RPG Vulnerability. This project is demonstrating methods of suppressing fires resulting from RPG impacts to sponson fuel tanks [DID: those bulges on the lower sides] – with emphasis on occupant survivability. For several U.S. rotorcraft, fuel tanks are contained in sponsons that are adjacent to the main cabin. Current data indicates that the U.S. aircraft are being shot with RPGs and sponsons should be protected.

…Combat Incident Emerging Threat Investigation. This project is addressing a recent combat incident in Afghanistan that raised concerns about a potential new threat to helicopters. In this incident, a CH-47 helicopter was damaged in a manner uncharacteristic of any previous incident. JCAT requested JLF Air support by providing threat-target characterization data for their incident investigation. Results from two shots completed against a surrogate airframe were provided to JCAT. The initial results from these tests allowed JCAT to understand the engagement conditions and subsequent damage with confidence, increasing the value of information provided to operational commanders.”

Jan 5/12: Australia & UAE. A $370 million firm-fixed-price contract to “provide for the services in support of the bridge requirement for new CH-47 F model aircraft to support foreign military sales.” The English translation, based on responses to our inquiries, is that Australia and the UAE are buying 13 CH-47Fs (7 of 7 Australia, 6 of 16 UAE) under the US Army’s contract, in order to benefit from its volume pricing. The 14th helicopter will be bought by the US Army.

As always, this is buying base airframes, plus integration of GFE. Even so, CH-47F customers like Britain and Canada, who ordered heavily customized versions, can’t take advantage of this approach. Neither can Italy, who will produce the machines in-country under an agreement between Boeing and AgustaWestland.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale clients (W58RGZ-12-C-0010). See also Dec 3/09 entry, “Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks“, and Boeing’s release.

CH-47Fs: 7 Australia, 6 UAE, & 1 USA

Jan 5/12: A $218.7 million firm-fixed-price contract. Clarifications revealed that the FY 2012 order will produce the last 12 refurbished CH-47F (converted from CH-47D) airframes under the current multi-year contract, as well as installation of equipment like engines etc. that are bought by the government under separate contracts. Boeing submitted an offer for a follow-on multi-year CH-47F contract in November 2011 (vid. Nov 4/11, Oct 12/11), and expects that if their offer is accepted, it would happen around January 2013.

Note that final contract dates are not the same as final delivery dates, so the 1st multi-year program will still be building machines during any follow-on contract’s initial couple of years. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Nov 4/11: MYP-II offer. Boeing has tabled its 2nd multi-year buy offer to the US government, for another 155 CH-47F family helicopters, as the end comes into view for its first $4.3 billion, multi-year contract for 191 helicopters.

Boeing CH-47Fs currently equip 8 U.S. Army units, and 6 of those units have completed deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army is in the process of training and equipping the 9th unit. Boeing.

Oct 12/11: MYP-II = CH-47F+. Boeing is preparing its next multi-year buy offer to the US government for 155 more CH-47 family helicopters, which would end the program of record.

Procurement wouldn’t start until 2013, and the new machines would include a number of changes including flip-over cargo rollers on the floor. They’re also developing a new rotor blade to give the helicopter about 2,000 more pounds of lift, without hurting forward flight performance. The new rotor is headed for a Critical Design Review in January 2012, but probably won’t deliver in time to begin the next buy. Defense News.

FY 2011

FY 2011 buys; British & Turkish buys; Dutch 1st flight; New sensor turrets; Canada’s Auditor-General is very critical. CH-47F, Ft. Campbell
(click to view full)

Sept 14/11: A $6.75 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to support the CH-47F Chinook helicopter renew aircraft.” Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Aug 22/11: UK contract. The UK MoD signs a GBP 1 billion ($1.64 billion) contract with Boeing for 14 new “CH-47 Mk6” Chinook helicopters, plus associated support for the first 5 years.

Boeing confirmed that these are new-build helicopters, which use the same T55-GA-714A engines that are installed on the F model, and being retrofitted to existing RAF Chinooks. The CH-47F is also known for its use of large, single-piece components, and the UK advisory touts a “new, machined monolithic airframe.” That appears to be a CH-47F base, but extensive changes and additions include UK-specific avionics, communication and navigation equipment; forward-looking infrared surveillance turrets; a rescue hoist; and defensive systems against guided missiles. Canada made similar changes to the “CH-147s” it bought.

The RAF will receive the 1st Mk6 aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013, to enter service in May 2014. By early 2015, 3 CH-47 Mk6 helicopters are slated to be ready for operational deployment, and delivery of all 14 helicopters is expected to finish by the end of 2015. The RAF intends to have all 14 operational by early 2017, bringing their total Chinook fleet to 60 (barring further losses). UK MoD | Boeing.

Britain: 14 “CH-47 Mk6”

Aug 14/11: Turkey. As expected, Turkey’s DSCA request (vid. Dec 8/09, June 6/11) shrunk by 66% and turned into an initial order for 6 CH-47Fs, with 5 going to the Army, and 1 to their Special Forces Command. An unnamed procurement official was reported as saying the contract was signed last month for about $400 million. Delivery is scheduled to take place between 2013 – 2014. The country didn’t have heavy-lift helicopters yet, so this is a notable step forward for them. Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey: 6 CH-47F

Aug 11/11: MH-47G. An $8.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy Digital Automatic Flight Control Systems for the Special Operations MH-47G. They’re actually manufactured by BAE.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 1/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, Contracting Center in Fort Eustis, VA (W91215-11-D-0001).

Aug 4/11: MH-47G. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $21 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 8-15 AN/ZSQ-2v1 Assault and 0-5 AN/ZSQ-2v2 Attack Electro-Optical Sensor Systems. The FBO solicitation specified only MH-47Gs, but the DefenseLINK release referred to US SOCOM’s MH-47G Chinook and MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters at Fort Campbell, KY.

Work will be performed primarily in McKinney, TX and is expected to be completed by Aug 2/13. A $15.6 million Delivery order 0001 was issued on Aug 2/11. This is a sole-source contract under the authority of FAR 6.302-1 (H92241-11-D-0006). See also

The ZSQ-2 electro-optical turrets share a number of sub-systems in common with similar Raytheon products that equip aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper, MH-60R Seahawk, etc., as Raytheon seeks to take things one step further with a Common Sensor Payload design for the US Army. The ZSQ-2s have begun receiving upgrades with 3rd generation FLIR night vision systems.

June 29/11: +8 CH-47F. A $174.1 million firm-fixed-price contract, covering the 4th year (FY 2011) of the current CH-47F multiyear contract, and exercising the Production Lot IX option for 8 new-build CH-47Fs.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

June 6/11: Turkey. Turkey’s DSCA request (vid. Dec 3/09) may be close to a contract, but for fewer helicopters. Hurriyet Daily News quotes an unnamed “senior procurement official,” who says that a $300 million deal for 6 of the 14 notified CH-47Fs is close to finalization, with deliveries to begin in 2013. The official added that “After the helicopters begin to arrive, we plan to make some modifications on them according to suit our specific needs.”

Contract negotiations among the SSM, the U.S. government and Boeing were launched in 2010. The deal is reportedly for 6 Army helicopters because of financial constraints, leaving the remaining 8 as a future option.

May 10/11: Training. A $23.7 million firm-fixed-price contract covers initial production fielding support for each new equipment training site equipped with the CH-47F.

Boeing describes it a bit differently, as Initial Production Fielding Support modifications on 49 CH-47F Chinook helicopters at Boeing’s Millville, NJ Modification Center, which opened in 2010. After the Chinooks are delivered from the production line in Philadelphia to the Army, they are flown to Millville, where Boeing structural and electrical employees make specialized avionics and airframe modifications to support new Army requirements. The contract will also support 2 New Equipment Training teams, who help train US Army Chinook units in the USA and abroad on the upgrades.

The US Army lists the estimated completion date as April 30/13, while Boeing says that the current contract period extends the current work of modifying Chinook aircraft at the Boeing Millville facility from May 2011 through April 2012. Both could be right; DoD announcements may not include option periods, and may cover only part of the contract’s total possible funds (W58RGZ-11-C-0093). See also Boeing release.

March 30/11: +25 CH-47F. A $528.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 25 nCH-47F Chinooks, as the FY 2011 new-build order. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

March 3/11: ECM. Boeing receives a $13.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F infrared suppressor systems modification B-kits. The idea is make the helicopter’s hot engine exhaust gasses less of a clear target for heat-seeking missiles. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of May 31/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Feb 16/11: Engines. Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, AZ received a $43.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 50 T55-GA-714A engines and 30 T55-GA-714A engine fielding kits. Work will be performed in Phoenix, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-C-0061).

Dec 28/10: +11 CH-47F. A $242 million firm-fixed-price contract for 11 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, as the FY 2011 remanufactured order. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 28/10: Support. A $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for training, equipping, sustaining, and other support and services for the CH-47F Chinook program. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/11. One bid was solicited with one bid was received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 8/10: Dutch 1st flight. 1st flight of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) CH-47F (NL) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The new version is scheduled to complete its flight test program in August 2011, after approximately 100 flight hours. There are 2 aircraft in flight test as of January 2011, of the order for 6. The CH-47F-NLs will join an existing fleet of 11 CH-47Ds, as the Dutch become the 1st international customer to field an F model variant.

The new Dutch Chinooks are equipped with self-protection systems, engine air particle separators, a forward-looking infrared system, and fast rope positions, which will be used to support Special Forces operations. Boeing | DID’s full CH-47F (NL) coverage.

Dec 3/10: A $50.7 million firm-fixed-price contract commits funding for CH-47F production Lot 10 long lead time items. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Nov 3/10: Improvements. Boeing continues to work on CH-47F/MH-47G improvements. They include a redesigned rotor blade, improved engine controls for the “fat tank” MH-47Gs, and an integrated cargo roller system for the CH-47Fs. These features could be part of a new configuration set that will be finalized in June 2011. Deliveries would start in 2014, under what Boeing hopes will be a new multi-year contract.

The new blade was derived from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche scout/attack helicopter, and has a swept dihedral-anhedral blade tip, using 3 airfoil sections instead of 2. It’s designed to add 2,000 pounds of lift, without hindering forward-flight performance. Wind tunnel testing is done, and the next step is making full-size blades for dynamic and fatigue testing, followed by 2014 flight tests. Aviation Week.

Oct 28/10: Canadian criticism. Canada’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) releases their 2010 Fall report. Canada’s CH-147 program rates a very negative verdict. Most important, they contend that the procurement process itself was unfair, and that DND kept senior decision makers in the dark about major changes to the project and its costs.

Read “On The Verge: Canada’s $4B+ Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters” for the full details, including links to background materials.

Oct 13/10: +2 CH-47F. A $43.5 million firm-fixed-price contract, exercising the option for 2 CH-47F new Chinook cargo helicopters. The order is technically placed on Sept 30/10, the last day of FY 2010. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Oct 13/10: Support. A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering 57,700 hours of CH-47F engineering services support, to include integration of engineering change proposals, product improvement, and other modifications to the CH-47F cargo helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. U.S. Army Contracting Command, CCAM-CH-A in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

FY 2010

FY 2010 buys; Requests & plans from Australia, Britain, Turkey, UAE; 100th CH-47F delivered. MH-47G, 2010 exercise
(click to view full)

Aug 6/10: Support. A $5.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order modification for 27,310 hours of engineering services support of “CH-47F unique items identification candidates, non-recurring engineering.” Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid relieved (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

DID asked about this, and the Army eventually explained that Boeing will be evaluating parts to determine where and how to permanently mark items over $5,000, or serially tracked items, with machine readable code per the Pentagon’s Item Unique Identification (IUID) mandate.

July 30/10: The 10th Mountain Division becomes the 6th US Army unit to field the CH-47F. It’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion has equipped its B Company at Fort Drum, NY, which will begin advanced mission training including simulated assault, troop-transport and cargo-movement exercises, and high mountain operations. Boeing.

July 22/10: #100. The 100th CH-47F rolls out of the Boeing facility near Philadelphia, PA, during a ceremony commemorating the milestone and the Army’s acceptance of the helicopter. More than 2,500 Boeing employees gathered inside the flight deck hangar to join in the commemoration. US Army | Boeing.

100th CH-47F

April 16/10: Support. A pair of cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts for engineering services, worth a combined $38.2 million for 183,993 hours. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. In both cases, just 1 bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

The first contract exercises a $30.2 million option for 145,480 hours, while the second exercises an $8 million option for 38,513 hours.

Feb 25/10: Australia. The Australian Government gives second pass approval to “Project AIR 9000 Phase 5C” for 7 CH-47Fs, at a budget of AUD $755 million. This approves the plan’s details, but is not itself a contract. Australia expects to field the first 2 helicopters in 2014, with all 7 expected by 2017. The ministerial statement makes it clear that the 7 CH-47Fs would replace 5th Aviation Regiment, C squadron’s existing 6 CH-47Ds, would also be based in Townsville, and would be expected to serve until 2040.

Per the recommendations of past commissions like Australia’s famous Kinnaird Review, Senator Faulkner said the new aircraft will be procured and maintained in the same broad configuration as the United States Army CH-47Fs. Australia also promised to consider joining the USA’s Chinook Product Improvement Program as a way to keep those configurations aligned, “when information on this program is of second pass quality.” Having said all that, however, “The new Australian Chinooks will also receive some additional ADF-specific equipment to meet certain operational and safety requirements.”

CH-47F taking off
click to play video

Dec 16/09: FY 2009. A $704.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 21 new build aircraft and 14 remanufactured CH-47s. This is the 3rd year of a multi-year contract for CH-47Fs, and work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 15/09: UK plans. Gordon Brown’s Labour Party government and the British Ministry of Defence announce plans to buy 10 new CH-47 Chinook helicopters for delivery in 2012-2013, with the intent to buy another 12 Chinooks later. The Chinooks will replace the planned Future Medium Helicopter competition to field a successor for Britain’s 34 AS330 Puma HC1s, and 46 H-3 Sea Kings. This is not a formal contract yet, and it is likely but not certain that the new helicopters will be CH-47Fs with British adaptations.

Dec 8/09: Turkey request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Turkey’s official request for up to 14 CH-47F Chinook Helicopters, as well as 32 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines (28 fitted + 4 spares), 28 AN/ARC-201E Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), 14 AN/APR-39A(V)1 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, and the required special tools and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, site survey, personnel training and training equipment, ferry services, and U.S. Government and contractor support services.

A DSCA request is not a sale; if the sale is not blocked in Congress by Dec 22/09, and a contract is concluded later, the estimated cost of the complete package could be up to $1.2 billion.

The prime contractor will be the Boeing Company in Ridley Park, PA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and even though these will be Turkey’s first heavy-lift helicopters, this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Turkey. DSCA announcement [PDF] | Defense News with Turkish reaction.

DSCA request: Turkey (14 CH-47F)

Dec 3/09: UAE request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces the United Arab Emirates official request to buy CH-47Fs and associated systems. The estimated cost is $2 billion, the prime contractor will be Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis, MO, and the DSCA release [PDF] adds an interesting note:

“The proposed sale will provide the United Arab Emirates the capability to transport equipment and troops in the region, as well as to support U.S. and NATO airlift requirements in Afghanistan.”[emphasis DID’s]

Though it is not discussed much, the UAE does have troops in Afghanistan, serving as part of ISAF. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 4 contractor representatives in the UAE for a period of 1 year, with an option for 2 additional years. During helicopter delivery, 1 additional U.S. government and 4 contractor representatives will be required for 1 week for quality assurance. Specific items requested include:

  • 16 CH-47F Chinook helicopters
  • 38 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines (32 quipped, 6 spares)
  • 20 AN/APX-118 Identification Friend or Foe Transponders
  • 20 AN/ARC-220 (RT-1749) Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) with Electronic counter-countermeasures
  • 40 AN/ARC-231 (RT-1808A) Receiver / Transmitters
  • 18 AN/APR-39A(V)1 Radar Signal Detecting Sets with Mission Data Sets
  • Plus flight and radar signal simulators, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, site survey, construction and facilities, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

Note that a DSCA request is not a contract, which must be signed after the 30-day Congressional blocking period has expired. The UAE also has some additional challenges these days, owing to $60 billion dollar debt default issues in Dubai. The UAE’s central government in Abu Dhabi is limiting its willingness to guarantee that debt, however.

DSCA request: UAE (16 CH-47F)

Dec 3/09: Support. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $21 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for interim contract support Phase II. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command’s Aviation & Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Nov 9/09: UK. Defense News reports that Britain is planning to cancel its Future Medium Helicopter competition, and order Boeing Chinooks instead. The proposed move is part of a Ministry of Defence helicopter strategy called “Vision 2020,” which still requires approval by government ministers.

Oct 28/09: Dutch. Luchtvaartnieuws reports [dead link, in Dutch] that the 6 initial Dutch CH-47Fs will be delayed to the end of 2010, due in part to software issues. They were originally scheduled to arrive by early 2010.

The practical consequence? If the Dutch decide not to stay in Afghanistan past 2011, their CH-47Fs may not be deployed there.

Oct 19/09: Sub-contractors. VT Group US, a unit of UK-based VT Group, announces a 5-year, $29.1 million contract to provide logistics analyses and support for the Army’s fleet of CH-47D/F Chinook cargo helicopters.

Under the terms of the contract, VT Group’s Technical Services Division will provide CH-47D/F logistics fleet management, sustainment, CH-47F product manager, foreign military sales, and sustainment support related to all CH-47 cargo helicopters in the Army’s fleet. This includes logistic support to be performed for the CH-47D/F programs, subsystems, product improvements, and the Army’s modernization plan for the CH-47s.

FY 2009

FY 2009 orders; Italian buy; Australian request.

Sept 24/09: Sub-contractors. Canadian landing gear specialist Heroux-Devtek Inc. in Longeuil, PQ signs a 4-year Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing. It makes them eligible to provide landing gear for all H-47F aircraft scheduled to be delivered to export customers over the firm’s FY 2012-2016 period. Héroux-Devtek may also be considered for an intellectual property license to service variants in the worldwide fleet of over 1,000 Chinook helicopters, and the firm is especially interested in that aftermarket services opportunity.

This MOU follows the Canadian government’s Aug 10/09 announcement to order 15 new “CH-147” Medium to Heavy Lift Helicopters, and supports Boeing’s Industrial & Regional Benefits commitment for the MHLH program. Heroux-Devtek release [PDF].

Sept 17/09: Turkey. Turkey is moving closer to a CH-47F contract, and its SSM procurement agency has reportedly added 4 Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR)/ Special Operations versions to its desired buy, raising the total to 14. Flight International reports that a letter of request has now been issued, and a contract signature is expected by mid-2010 via the USA’s Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

Sept 14/09: +6 MH-47G. A $17.8 million firm-fixed-price contract involving 6 MH-47G Recap, Lot 7 Recap Aircraft. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of May 30/10 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

As the price might suggest, this is not the full remanufacturing cost. Boeing representatives confirmed that it will be used to refurbish rotor blades, transmissions, and other re-used parts as part of the overall remanufacturing process.

Aug 3/09: +5 CH-47F. A $108.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F multiyear contract option for 5 new-build CH-47s, as part of FY 2009/ Production lot 7. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

July 1/09: Australia. Shephard Group reports that Australia may not place a contract order for new CH-47Fs until 2012, and doesn’t expect to field them before 2016-2018. In the interim, Australia hopes to issue maintenance support tenders for its 6 existing CH-47Ds.

The original acquisition plan, approved by the Liberal Party government, would have bought 3 new-build CH-47Fs, and remanufactured existing CH-47Ds to CH-47F configuration. The new Defence Capability Plan, issued this day, revises the timeline.

May 13/09: Italian order. Italy’s ARMAEREO procurement agency signs a EUR 900 million ($1.23 billion equivalent) contract to buy 16 CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters for the Italian Army, with an option for 4 more. Read “Italy Buying CH-47F Helicopters” for more details, and updates.

Italy: 16 CH-47Fs

April 23/09: Australia request. The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Australia’s official request to buy 7 CH-47F Chinook helicopters with 14 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 7 Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm Miniguns, 16 AN/ARC-201D Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS), 7 Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Trackers (FBCB2/BFT), 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, plus mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and support.

The estimated cost is $560 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract. See “Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks” for further details and updates.

DSCA request: Australia (7 CH-47F)

April 23/09: +7 CH-47F. A $142 million firm-fixed-price contract for 7 new-build CH-47Fs in FY 2009, adding helicopters to the existing multi-year contract (see Aug 27/08) under production Lot 7 (see Dec 24/08). Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited and one bid received.

Note that the 5-year contract includes options for up to 24 additional helicopters over its lifetime, in addition to agreed yearly production figures. This order brings Lot 7 production to 38 helicopters: 23 new-build CH-47Fs, and 15 remanufactured CH-47Fs (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

April 13/09: Boeing announces that a 4th U.S. Army unit has fielded the CH-47F Chinook: Company B of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Feb 26/09: Delivery. Boeing announces delivery of the first CH-47F Chinook manufactured under the 5-year U.S. Army contract awarded in August 2008. The helicopter will be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, the 4th unit scheduled to be equipped under the Army’s ongoing Chinook modernization program.

1st MYP CH-47F

Dec 24/08: +31 CH-47F. A $620.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 31 Lot 7 production CH-47Fs, built under the 2nd year of the multi-year contract announced on Aug 27/08. This FY 2008 / Year 2 order includes 16 new-build CH-47Fs, 15 remanufactured CH-47Fs, plus Lot 8 long lead time items.

These contracts also include integration of “government furnished equipment” like engines, electronics, and defensive systems, but the equipment itself is bought under separate contracts. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited and one bid received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 19/08: +6 MH-47G. A $114 million firm-fixed price contract for a modification that finalizes both long lead items for, and the procurement or remanufacture of, 6 Special Forces MH-47E aircraft to the MH-47G configuration.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and Middletown, DE and is expected to be complete by May 30/11. One bid was solicited on May 8/08 by the Aviation Integration Directorate at Aviation and Missile Command, Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 15/08: Support. A $12.7 million cost plus fixed price contract for CH-47F Interim Contractor Support. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/09. One bid was solicited and one bid was received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Nov 18/08: Boeing announces that its CH-47F Chinook helicopter has been fielded by Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, TX. This is the 3rd U.S. Army unit to field the CH-47F since the aircraft was certified combat-ready in July 2007.

Nov 14/08: Sub-contractors. Eaton Corp. announces that it will receive new work from Boeing Company, as part of the CH-47F multi-year contract. Specific terms were not disclosed, but Eaton will supply a hydraulic system engine pump, motor pump and control box and the hydraulic control valves; fluid conveyance system hoses, tubes and fittings; lubrication system components and the helicopter’s engines health debris monitoring components.

FY 2008

USA’s Multi-Year Buy; Canadian buy; Italian partnership; CAAS cockpit ready; Sabotage. CH-47F, Ft. Hood
(click to view full)

Aug 27/08: MYP-I. Boeing announces a 5-year, $4.3 billion U.S. Army contract for 181 CH-47F Chinooks, and 10 additional Chinooks under FY 2008 supplemental funding. There are also options in the award for an additional 24 helicopters over the course of the contract, which would bring the total to 215.

The DefenseLINK release describes an initial $722.7 million payment on the firm-fixed-price multiyear contract (W58RGZ-08-C-0098), which runs until Sept 30/13. It comprises 109 CH-47F new-build aircraft, 72 CH-47F remanufactured aircraft, and priced options for 34 CH-47F new build aircraft (10 FY08 + 24 options).

Boeing claims the multi-year award creates production security for the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Township, PA, and for its sub-contractors in over 45 states. They also claim a cost savings of more than $449 million for the U.S. Army. To date, Boeing has delivered 48 CH-47F helicopters to the U.S. Army, training and equipping two units, with a 3rd unit scheduled to stand up in August 2008. The helicopters are currently undergoing its first deployment to Iraq. Boeing release.

MYP Contract

July 16/08: Italian partnership. Boeing and Finmeccanica SpA subsidiary AgustaWestland sign an agreement that defines the terms for the joint manufacture of new CH-47F Chinook helicopters to replace earlier models used by the Italian Army. Orders are expected to follow, and not just from Italy. The agreement also includes a licensing arrangement that lets AgustaWestland to market, sell and produce the Boeing CH-47F Chinook to the United Kingdom, other European countries, and “several countries in the Mediterranean region.”

AgustaWestland has been Boeing’s European partner for other versions of the CH-47, and this new agreement continues and extends that relationship. As prime contractor for the Italian CH-47F, AgustaWestland will be responsible for design and systems integration, and for aircraft delivery to the Italian Army. Boeing Rotorcraft Systems will build the fuselage in Ridley Park, PA. Boeing release | AgustaWestland release.

Italian partnership

May 13/08: Sabotage. During QA inspections, a pair of newly assembled Chinook helicopters at the Boeing plant south of Philadelphia are found to have severed wires in them, and a propeller part (washer) where one didn’t belong. The incident was subsequently determined to be deliberate sabotage, and the production line was closed for 2 days. Digital Journal, “Two Chinook Helicopters Sabotaged At Boeing Plant” | Boeing release May 15 |, “Probe at Boeing plant shoddy workmanship or sabotage”.


May 6/08: Engines. Honeywell International of Phoenix, AZ received a maximum $48.9 million, Firm-Fixed price Indefinite Delivery/ Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for Engine and Maintenance Support for the T55-GA-714A Engines and Components used on the MH-47G Helicopters. Work will primarily be performed at Greer, SC and is expected to be completed by Dec 31/12. This contract was awarded as a sole source, to the firm that makes the engines (H92241-08-D-0006).

April 7/08: Canada contract. Canada’s Ministry of Public Works and Government Services announces a March 2008 sole-source RFP to Boeing for 16 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, plus 20 years of associated in-service support (ISS), with an extension option for the life expectancy of the aircraft.

These helicopters use CH-47Fs as their base, but include so many modifications that they’re almost a different helicopter. That ends up costing the Canadians. See the June 28/06 entry for details, and read “On The Verge: Canada’s $4.7B Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters” for full coverage. Canada is also looking to buy 6 CH-47D helicopters for delivery before February 2009. They end up being used in Afghanistan in order to meet Parliament’s requirements for continuing the mission, and could be upgraded after the CH-47Fs arrive.

Canada: 16 “CH-147”

Feb 1/08: FY 2008. A “large firm-fixed price contract [for 10] CH-47F new build production helicopters” is announced on DefenseLINK. DID is later able to confirm the figure: $280.5 million. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited on Dec 31/03, and 1 bid was received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

A Feb 27/08 Boeing release corrects the number 11 helicopters, and adds that this award brings the number of new CH-47F Chinooks on contract to 59. Aircraft deliveries under this award will begin in 2011.

11 CH-47Fs

Oct 8/07: CAAS. Rockwell Collins announces that its Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) in the Boeing CH-47F cockpit has been declared operationally ready for deployment by the U.S. Army. The CAAS upgrades/suites were delivered on time, and on budget.

Initially developed for US Special Operations Forces’ MH-47 and MH-60 helicopter fleets, Rockwell Collins’ CAAS solution was subsequently incorporated into the UH-60M, MH-60T, VH-60N Presidential helicopter, ARH-70A, and the CH-53E and CH-53K.

CH-47F CAAS ready

FY 2006 – 2007

US orders; 1st production rollout; CH-47F declared combat-ready; HH-47’s CSAR-X crash begins; Europe’s notional HLR; Requests & plans in Canada, Italy, Netherlands. CH-47F, Ft. Irwin
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Sept 14/07: +1. A $25.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract (W58RGZ-04-C-0012) for a CH-47F New Build Production Helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec 31/03 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

1 CH-47F

Sept 4/07: Europe. Defense Aerospace reports that the Franco-Germany Heavy Lift Helicopter (HTL/FTH) program may not involve full development of a new design, and says that 3 helicopters are being evaluated in the initial phase: the Boeing CH-47F Chinook, the Sikorsky CH-53K project, and Mil’s Mi-26T. See DID’s in-depth coverage of this program, its emerging requirements, and the contenders. That “growth version” of the CH-47F would appear to be necessary if Boeing wants to be a serious competitor.

Aug 17/07: Jane’s International Defence Review reports that: “Boeing is looking to enhance the workhorse helicopter to improve range and payload. Director of Boeing H-47 programmes Jack Dougherty said in a presentation to reporters at Fort Campbell that the company continues to fund research into the possibility of a “growth Chinook” beyond the CH-47F.”

Aug 14/07: Combat-ready. The CH-47F Chinook helicopter has been certified combat-ready by the U.S. Army and 13 have been fielded to the first operational unit: the 101st Airborne Division’s Bravo Company (“Varsity”), 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Ft. Campbell, KY. Boeing release.

Combat ready

July 16/07: Boeing announces U.S. Army authorization for full-rate production and fielding of the new CH-47F Chinook helicopter, following operational testing at Fort Campbell, KY, in April 2007. Boeing will now move forward with First Unit Fielding in July 2007. Boeing release.


July 8/07: CH-47F new. A $76.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F new build production helicopters. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2012. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 31, 2003 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

CH-47F new-build

July 5/07: MH-47G. Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a delivery order amount of $52.7 million as part of a $147.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for remanufacture of H-47 aircraft to the MH-47G configuration.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 28, 2006 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

July 5/07: MH-47G. Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a delivery order amount of $6.5 million as part of a $112.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for remanufacture of H-47 Aircraft to the MH-47G configuration, and an option for additional aircraft.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2010. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 11, 2007 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

MH-47G rebuilds

June 18/07: Testing. Boeing announces that the CH-47F Chinook helicopter has successfully completed U.S. Army operational testing at Ft. Campbell, KY. Testing was completed ahead of schedule by Bravo Company (Varsity), 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); the tests simulated numerous mission scenarios, including air assault, combat re-supply and transport operations, over more than 60 flight test hours. Boeing release.

CH-47F testing done

April 5/07: Italy. Boeing Corp. says it expects that Italy will buy 16-20 CH-47Fs, through a joint production agreement with Italian conglomerate Finmecccanica SpA. The deal has reportedly been in the works for a while, and Boeing said it expects the orders around 2008-2009.

Boeing spokesman Joseph LaMarca says that the expected Italian purchase will be a direct commercial sale, with AgustaWestland as the prime contractor and Boeing as the lead subcontractor. In 2006, the 2 companies signed a new memorandum of understanding that lays out an industrial agreement for further Italian Chinook production. World Aeronautical Press Agency.

March 3/07: MH-47G. A delivery order amount of $48.2 million as part of a $69.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for long lead items used to remanufacture Chinooks to the MH-47G US Special Forces configuration. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jun. 28, 2006 by the U.S. Army Aviation Integration Directorate in Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Feb 27/06: CSAR-X hits turbulence, eventually crashes. The US Government Accountability Office upholds protests by Sikorsky & Lockheed Martin. It orders the USAF to re-bid the CSAR-X contract, and cancel Boeing’s HH-47 contract if another firm is deemed to have the better bid. This kicks off an acrimonious process featuring revisions to the RFP, public criticism by the contractors involved, and a second round of protests. It eventually leads to Air Force cancellation of the entire CSAR-X program.

CSAR-X begins its crash

Feb 19/07: Testing. The first production CH-47F has moved into Operational Testing at Ft. Campbell, KY after completing acceptance and developmental flight testing in December 2006. This phase, which ends in April 2007, includes more than 60 flight test hours that simulate a wide range of mission scenarios. Flight tests will be conducted by Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Boeing release.

Dec 22/06: CH-47F rebuilds. The full delivery order amount of $650.3 million is received as part of a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F remanufacture. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 28, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 22/06: New CH-47Fs. A $406.4 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for the CH-47F new build helicopters. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2012. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 28, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

Dec 22/06 – Boeing addendum: A Jan 3/06 press release from Boeing puts the total value of these contracts at $1.5 billion, and describes the order as production contracts for 16 new-build CH-47Fs and 9 remanufactured CH-47Fs valued at $624 million, plus options for 22 additional new-build CH-47Fs and 19 remanufactured CH-47Fs valued at more than $920 million. Presumably, the $406.4 million announcement represents the 19 remanufactured aircraft, with an $515 million option still outstanding for the 22 new-build CH-47Fs. Aircraft deliveries will begin in early 2008.

25 CH-47Fs, options for 41

Nov 9/06: CSAR-X. Boeing announces that it has won the $10 billion CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue competition with its HH-47 variant. The contract calls for 145 aircraft: 4 test platforms, and 141 production helicopters. It’s eventually canceled. See DID’s FOCUS Article.

CSAR-X “win”

Nov 7/06: New CH-47Fs. A $163.3 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F New Build Production Helicopters. Based on past order totals and contract values, this will buy the US Army about 8 CH-47Fs.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 29, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 31, 2003 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

First flight
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Oct 23/06: The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter successfully completes its first flight from the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, PA.

1st CH-47F flight

Sept 27/06: Dutch request. US DSCA notifies Congress of the Netherlands’ request for up to 9 new CH-47F helicopters along with 18 of Honeywell’s T55-L-714A turbine engines and 18 Common Architecture Avionics System (CAAS) cockpits. The latter set will be used as spares, and will also help upgrade 11 of its existing CH-47D Chinook Cargo Helicopters to CH-47F configuration. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $652 million, and principal contractors in this sale will also include Honeywell, Incorporated of Phoenix, AZ.

In February 2007, a contract is issued for only 6 new-build CH-47F (NL) helicopters, without the CAAS cockpits. DID details the new helicopters, and explains what’s going on.

Dutch request 9, buy 6

June 28/06: Canada. Canada announces an estimated $4.7 billion project to acquire a fleet of 16 medium-to heavy-lift helicopters. The announcement is made as an Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN), which permits the Government to identify an intended contract award winner (in this case, the Boeing CH-47F Chinook) and then buy that choice unless an offer deemed to be better is received from industry within 30 days. See complete DID coverage in “On The Verge: Canada’s $4.7B Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters“, including the links to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and some potential timing issues for the CH-47F.

June 15/06: The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter is unveiled to the U.S. Army during a rollout ceremony in Ridley Park, PA. See Boeing release.

CH-47F rollout

April 18/06: A $7.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for long lead parts for the CH-47 Helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 1, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

Awards under contract # W58RGZ-04-C-0012 have also included:

  • Feb 16/06: $24.4M for undefined new-build CH-47F
  • Aug 30/05: $53.4M for 2 new-build CH-47F
  • May 10/05: 186.2M for undefined new-build CH-47F
  • Dec 23/04: $243.0M for 10 new-build CH-47F
  • Dec 05/03: $151.5M for 7 new-build CH-47F

See Appendix A for more details.

Appendix A: Reconciling Previous Contracts and Numbers Helping hand
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The problem DID ran into was difficulty reconciling announced contracts with corporate releases and also getting a firmer set of numbers, in order to get a more complete picture. A January 12, 2005 Boeing press release, for instance, noted that Boeing had signed a $549 million contract on Dec. 21, 2004 with the U.S. Army for 17 new-build CH-47F Chinook helicopters. This included seven aircraft authorized in December 2003 as part of the FY ’03 supplemental defense appropriation bill, and 10 aircraft approved in the current fiscal year defense budget (which ended Oct 2005, by which point the contract announcements had risen to $634.1M).

Fortunately, Boeing CH-47 Program Manager Ken Eland bails us out with an excellent explanation. Photos and links added…

“Chinook contract history is complex, because it involves both undefinitized contract actions (UCAs), which you may consider initial contract agreements, that lay out approximate monetary values for statements of work, and the full contract awards, subject to a large number of terms and conditions that specify in very minute detail costs for each step we undertake in the production process, starting with procurement of components and systems.

On December 5, 2003, Boeing and the Army agreed on an undefinitized contract action for $151.5 million to cover initial costs for development and production of seven new-build CH-47Fs. The funding for this action came from a supplemental appropriation. The purpose of the UCA was to energize the program quickly, given the availability of funds. The appropriation was not the final contract value, but an authorization value for the contract we would sign the following year.

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We signed the full contract in December of 2004, with a definitized value of $306.4 million.

We also signed a contract in December of 2004 for $243 million for ten new-build CH-47Fs. We had, in other words, booked 17 brand new CH-47Fs to add to the Army’s existing Chinook fleet, all of which we are modernizing under the Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program that we initiated in 2003, with first deliveries for Production Lot 1 in 2004. That program is slated to continue until about 2019 under the current production and delivery schedule. The 17 new CH-47Fs are the first installment of 55 currently authorized to increase the Army’s Chinook fleet.

To effectuate this change, we modified the previous definitized contract, increasing its value to $549 million ($243 million + $306.4 million).

On May 10, 2005, we agreed to a contract action for $186.2 million for “Renew” CH-47Fs. These aircraft are inducted CH-47Ds that are remanufactured into CH-47Fs. We have termed these aircraft with new fuselages “Renew” rather than remanufactured, to distinguish from those with modernized rather than new fuselages. Production Lot 3 involves 8 CH-47Fs, all of which will utilize new structures. All aircraft in Production Lots 1 and 2 used reconditioned fuselages, and were MH-47G Special Operation Chinooks, except the first one, a CH-47F.

In August 2005, we also added $53.4 million in another undefinitized contract agreement for two more CH-47Fs. This amount was a not-to-exceed (NTE) value, and we later definitized the actual value at $48.6 million for two new CH-47Fs. A modification was also included for additional configuration items to the CH-47F baseline valued at $19M. This increased the value of the New Build contract to $616.6M ($549M + $48.6M + $19M)

We also were awarded a $298.1 million contract for the Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program for Production Lot 4, consisting of 15 renewed CH-47Fs. This amount will cover recapitalization of aircraft systems and any over and above costs we incur for unplanned modernization work that may occur due to the condition of the inducted aircraft.

This month, February 2006, we added another $24.4 million contract for one additional new-build CH-47F.

So, our current contract status is as follows:

  • We have a contract in place for 20 new build CH-47Fs with a total value of $640 million that also includes nonrecurring costs associated with development. ($549 million + $48.6 million + $19M + $24.4 million, rounded to take into account other minor contract modifications).

  • Our Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program involves renewed CH-47Fs for Production Lots #3 (8 aircraft) and #4 (15 aircraft) totaling 23 aircraft with a contract value of $484 million.

  • Lots 1 and 2 already have been delivered. As noted, all except one CH-47F, the initial delivery in Lot 1, have been MH-47G Special Operations Chinooks. FYI, we delivered 22 G models in those two lots.

  • Deliveries of the 17 new-build [DID: CH-47F] Chinooks will begin in September 2006 and continue through the end of 2008.”

N.B. The contracts for Lot 1 and Lot 2 related to CH-47F model are not included in this article. The values discussed here only reflected models starting with Lot 3, and the initial New Build contract.

Additional Readings Background: Helicopters

National CH-47F Family Variants

News & Views

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

CH-53K: The U.S. Marines’ HLR Helicopter Program

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 17/03/2016 - 00:19
CH-53K concept
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The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.

Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.

The HLR Program Lifts Off Sikorksy on HLR, 2011

The $25.5 billion, 200-helicopter CH-53K program will define the long-term future of the US Marine Corps’ medium-heavy lift capabilities – and may be needed to save Marine aviation in the medium term.

On average, existing CH-53E aircraft are more than 15 years old, have over 3,000 flight hours under tough conditions, and are becoming more and more of a maintenance challenge with a 44:1 maintenance man-hours:flight hours ratio. Not to mention the resulting $20,000 per flight-hour cost ratio. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, a 1999 analysis showed that the existing fleet has a service life of 6,120 flight hours, based on fatigue at the weakest point where the tail folds. The USMC expected that the existing fleet would start to reach this point in 2011, at a rate of 15 aircraft per year. The funding profile below suggests a problem for the Corps:


The Marine Corps itself is the source of the disconnect. The HLR program initially called for 156 new-build helicopters derived from the CH-53E Super Stallion design, with initial flight tests in 2010-2011, and initial operating capability (IOC) in 2014-2015. IOC was defined as a detachment of 4 aircraft, with combat ready crews, and prepared to deploy with all required equipment and spares.

In 2010, however, the Marines grew the program plan to 200 helicopters, even as they pushed its initial flight back to FY 2013, and IOC back to FY 2018. The program wasn’t experiencing problems, and no reasons were given, beyond statements concerning the program’s aggressive schedule. Further slippage has occurred since. Here’s the full timeline:

Up, up, and…
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The current schedule creates a number of risks for the Marine Corps. There’s no question that pushing the CH-53K program back will leave the Marines with a dwindling heavy-lift helicopter fleet, whose size, capability, and safety are governed by mechanical realities rather than political diktat. In April 2010, the US military ran out of stored CH-53D/E airframes to refurbish and return to the front lines. In February 2011, the USMC retired its CH-53D fleet altogether.

The other risk is political. On the one hand, the CH-53K is a large program, and the farther the Marines push it away, the easier it is to cut amidst budget crises. With its heavy-lift fleet dwindling, that could be disastrous for the force. On the other hand, budgetary crises also look for programs that are late or experiencing problems, and the CH-53K is big enough to earn a lot of attention if it’s seen as screwing up. That fact that the original schedule was overly aggressive wouldn’t be remembered.

Was the move to push the CH-53K back an act of political negligence, to protect less critical programs like the V-22? Or was it an act of supreme prudence, which will lead to a strong program that survives precisely because it goes out and meets its targets? Opinions vary. Time will tell.

Current Status Some assembly required
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US Navy PMA-261 is responsible for the CH-53K program. Sikorsky is currently working under a $3.5 – 4 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract, to include 4 SDD flight test helicopters, 1 ground test airframe, and associated program management and test support. As the development timeline stretched out, 6 System Development Test Aircraft were added to to that mix. To date, Sikorsky’s industrial partners include:

The CH-53X / CH-53K Mission example
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The CH-53K’s maximum gross weight (MGW) will increase to 88,000 pounds with external loads, versus 73,500 pounds for the CH-53E. MGW with internal loads will be 74,000 pounds, compared to 69,750 pounds for the CH-53E. It’s being designed to carry a cargo load of 27,000 pounds (13.5 tons) 110 nautical miles, operating at an altitude of 3,000 feet and an ambient temperature of 91.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is nearly double the capacity of the current CH-53E Super Stallions, all in a helicopter that’s roughly the same size.

Those altitude and temperature qualifications matter, too, because “hot and high” conditions lower aircraft load carrying capabilities and combat radius – especially for helicopters. This reduced performance has recently been a factor during operations in Afghanistan and relief efforts in Pakistan, for instance, and has been a factor with earlier models of the C-130 Hercules as well. Figures for the CH-53K operating entirely around sea level and in cooler temperatures would be higher, but would not be double that of existing CH-53Es.

As an example of these variables at work, Sikorsky’s CH-53K brochure states that the improved CH-53K will have a maximum external load of 16.3t/ 36,000 lbs. On the other hand, an operation that carries an externally-slung load from sea level to a point 3,000 feet above sea level, with a total range there and back of 220 nautical miles/ 407 km, and 30 minute loiter at the landing zone, would have a maximum mission load of only 12.25t/ 27,000 lbs.

MRAP: RG-31, IEDed
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Even at sea level, however, increased lift capacity will be important. As the Hummer’s fundamental lack of survivability began to marginalize it on the battlefield, the Marines led the charge to field “MRAP” blast-resistant vehicle designs instead. While an up-armored HMMWV weighs about 9,100 pounds empty, the lightest Category 1 MRAP patrol vehicles check in at weights ranging from 16,000 – 31,000 pounds, and even the “light” JLTVs that will replace a large segment of the HMMWV fleet are expected to weigh 14,000 – 20,000 pounds.

Those weights mean that tactical operations to airlift mobile forces ashore beyond the beach, or within the zone of operations, will have only one helicopter available that can get the job done: the CH-53.

If the Marines think their CH-53 fleet is seeing heavy use now, just wait.

New Technologies CH-53K concept
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In order to meet those requirements, the CH-53K will be depending on a number of new technologies. No one technology constitutes a big stretch, which is good news for the program. Instead, a host of technologies that have been developed since the CH-53E program will be refined, and used in inter-related areas. For the basic outlines of many low-risk CH-53X/CH-53K improvements, read “

  • /">An Affordable Solution To Heavy Lift” [PDF] by Lt. Col. James C. Garman, an H-53 family pilot and Senior Preliminary Design Engineer in Sikorsky’s New Product Definition Group. See also this interview with former HLR program manager Col. Paul Croisetiere.

  • The most important new addition to the CH-53K will be its 7,500shp class GE38 / T408 engines, which have already hit 8,300 shp in ground tests. The military is hoping for 18% better specific fuel consumption than the similarly sized T64 engine, even though the engine would produce 57% more power. To improve maintenance and reliability, the GE38 is also expected to have 63% fewer parts.

    Other technologies slated for the CH-53K include a “glass” [digital] cockpit that has high commonality and interoperability with existing Army and Navy helicopters, high-efficiency rotor blades with anhedral tips that have 12% (main) and 15% (tail) more surface area, plus different construction to handle higher loads; a composite cuff attachment that attaches the main blades directly to an elastomerically-articulated titanium rotor head, without the need for specialized tools or multiple redundant fasteners; a cargo rail locking system; external cargo improvements, survivability enhancements, and enhancements designed to extend service life.

    Changes will be made as the program progresses, and engineers get a better sense of which technologies are ready, and which would create risks to the program. For example, the CH-53K was going to use a “viscoelastic lag damper” for the rotors, in order to minimize vibration and stress. It was removed in order to speed up deployment, and a modified version of standard linear hydraulic dampers will be used instead. The Navy hopes to achieve 2x reliability compared to the existing CH-53Es, but gave up the potential for 4x reliability, in exchange for less development risk.

    Sikorsky on CH-53K

    Given the CH-53E’s large maintenance ratio, reliability will matter. As former HLR program manager Col. Paul Croisetiere put it in a NAVAIR release:

    “Given the CH-53E’s operational costs and maintenance demands, heavy lift has built its reputation for excellence on the backs of our maintainers… We are going to take our maintainers somewhere they’ve rarely been before. Home for dinner.”

    Several decades of weapon program history suggest that the odds of meeting this goal are low. Instead, the trend is that these promises are made, but more advanced and complex weapons wind up having more points of failure, and require even more maintenance. If the CH-53K program can break that cycle, it would represent a landmark success in Pentagon weapons acquisition.

    Contracts & Key Events

    Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

    FY 2014 – 2016

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    March 17/16: The second prototype of the CH-53K helicopter made its maiden flight in January according to Lockheed company Sikorsky. In addition, the first aircraft into the test program has achieved flight envelope expansion to 120 knots for the USMC’s CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter program. The two are the most heavily instrumented of the Engineering Development Models (EDM) and will focus on structural flight loads and envelope expansion. Two more will join the flight line later this year and will focus on performance, propulsion, and avionics flight qualification.

    January 5/16: The USMC seems to have given the seal of approval to the latest CH-53 after the first marine pilot to test the helicopter commended its abilities. Lt. Col. Jonathan Morel tested the CH-53K King Stallion which is set to become the largest and heaviest helicopter in the US military. Two hundred of the rotorcraft will be procured by the USMC in a deal worth $25.5 billion.

    October 29/15: The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has flown for the first time, eleven months behind schedule. The new helicopter is intended to replace the Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, with the new design boasting three times the lift capability of the older model. The first CH-53K, known as Engineering Development Model-1 (EMD-1) will be joined by an additional three aircraft to undergo 2,000 flight hours of testing.

    July 31/14: Engines. General Electric in Lynn, A receives a $68.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 16 GE38-1B engines, closure kits, tooling, and associated systems engineering and program management in support of the CH-53K helicopter program’s Operational Evaluation phase. This is on top of the July 17/13 contract for “time critical parts”, and the $84.3 million total represents the first engine buy beyond the 20 covered by the System Development & Demonstration contract. $22.5 million in FY 2013 – 2014 US Navy RDT&E budgets are committed immediately.

    Note that each CH-53K is equipped with 3 engines. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in January 2017 (N00019-13-C-0132). See also GE, “U.S. Navy Awards GE38 Engine Production Contract”.

    June 9/14: Leadership. PMA-261 Program Manager U.S. Marine Corps Col. Robert Pridgen turns over command to Col. Henry Vanderborght, a long-time CH-53E pilot, former John Glenn Test Pilot of the Year, and former Light/Attack Helicopters (PMA-276) platform team lead for UH-1Y production and the UH-1N’s sundown. Vanderbought wasn’t actually a full Colonel until he was promoted on the morning of the change-of-command ceremony.

    Pridgen will become the program manager for the Presidential Helicopters Program (PMA-274) in July 2014. Sources: US NAVAIR, “Heavy-lift helicopters program welcomes new program manager”.

    May 5/14: Naming. Sikorsky officially unveils their CH-53K flight test helicopter EDM-2, and the USMC officially names the type “King Stallion”.

    One can see the natural extension from the CH53A/D Sea Stallion and CH-53E Super Stallion, but there comes a point where one can push the boundaries in unintended directions. Maybe they were thinking of the 1942 movie with Chief Thundercloud. In the modern era, people are more likely to think that somewhere, an adult entertainer wants his name back. Sources, Sikorsky, “Sikorsky Unveils CH-53K Helicopter; U.S. Marine Corps Reveals Aircraft Name” | South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Sikorsky introduces new ‘King Stallion’ helicopter” | Stamford Advocate, “Sikorsky unveils its new King Stallion heavy lift helicopter”.

    “King Stallion”

    May 1/14: Testing. Sikorsky announces that full testing is finally moving ahead with the non-flying GTV, including powered “light-off” with all 7 main rotor blades and 4 tail rotor blades spinning, and powered by its three 7,500 horsepower class GE engines. This begins a rigorous 2-year test program of the rotor blades, transmission, engines, and all subsystems using the GTV. Sources: Sikorsky, “Sikorsky Begins Powered Ground Tests of CH-53K Helicopter with Rotor Blades”.

    March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to the CH-53K, their top concern is that the USMC is scheduled to begin ordering helicopters before testing is done. Beyond that concurrency worry:

    Nearly 9 years later the program’s two critical technologies – the main rotor blade and main gearbox – are approaching maturity. The program expects these technologies to be demonstrated in a realistic environment by its planned February 2016 production decision, a delay in 6 months over last year’s schedule. Program officials reported that they conducted a three-blade whirl test that produced results that exceeded required outcomes. Flight testing is expected to begin in late 2014.

    March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The current Navy plan will begin buying production CH-53Ks with an order for 2 in FY 2017, followed by 4 in FY 2018 and 7 in FY 2019. That means production has been pushed back by about a year, because:

    “Late delivery of components into qualification, and subsequent qualification challenges, have delayed Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) delivery, Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR – GTV & 1st Flight), Engineering Development Models (EDM) delivery and CH-53K 1st Flight, and have moved Milestone C (MSC) and other associated events to 3Q 2016. Budgetary constraints delayed start of the Aircraft Procurement (APN) program by one year. As such, Advanced Acquisition Contracts (AAC) and LRIP awards have been adjusted accordingly. In order to procure aircraft that effectively demonstrate manufacturing processes are both mature and under control, two (2) additional RDT&E,N-funded System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTAs) in FY15 with delivery in 4Q 2018 and 1Q 2019 were added to the program.”

    Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] and detailed budget documents.

    Oct 31/13: Rotors. Sikorsky has completed initial tests of the CH-53Ks new rotor blades, including fatigue tests and whirl-tower balance tests. Additional blade qualification testing will continue for several years, in order to validate aspects like aerodynamic stability, tip deflection, and rotational twist. The next steps involve installation and testing on the stationary CH-53K GTV.

    There’s a lot to test, because the rotors are new technology. The 35 foot span, 7-bladed main rotor has blade of almost 3 foot chord width, with new airfoil designs, twist, and taper to handle the engines’ 71% power increase. The new blade tips are designed to improve hover performance, and a composite cuff attachment allows attachment of each blade to the elastomerically-articulated titanium rotor head, without tools or redundant fasteners. The rotor hub itself is almost 9 feet in diameter, and the blade radius will be 39.5 feet when assembled, with 12% more total surface area than the CH-35E.

    The 4-blade tail rotors are also new, with 10 foot blades and 15% more surface area compared to the CH-53E. Sikorsky says that the CH-53K tail rotor produce as much thrust as the main rotor blades on Sikorsky’s 5.5 ton S-76 medium helicopter, which is used in the offshore oil industry. Source: Sikorsky via PR Newswire, “Sikorsky Completes Initial Tests of First Rotor Blades for CH-53K Helicopter”.

    Oct 11/13: EVM penalty. Bloomberg News:

    “Sikorsky was notified Sept. 6 of three deficiencies on a contract for the Navy’s CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter related to guidelines for the recording of direct costs and material accounting, Navy Commander William Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. A corrective action plan is expected from the company by Oct. 21, he said.”

    While Bloomberg doesn’t say so, the issue in question relates to a quantitative approach to project tracking called Earned Value Management. Until they’re satisfied, the Pentagon is withholding the maximum 5% on payments. Sikorsky responds that 2 of the 3 issues are already resolved, and they don’t expect this to affect the program. Sources: For, “Earned Value Management Terms and Formulas for Project Managers” | Bloomberg, “Pentagon Withholds Sikorsky Payments for Business System Flaws”.

    Oct 1/13: Sub-contractors. Kratos Defense & Security announces that an $8.5 million contract from Sikorsky to design and develop CH-53K maintenance trainers. The full-fidelity Maintenance Training Device Suite (MTDS) is meant to provide a true-to-life environment for maintenance training; as well as remove-and-replace training for avionics systems, electrical systems, hydraulic systems and many other mechanical subsystems.

    The Helicopter Emulation Maintenance Trainer (HEMT) uses a 3D virtual environment to support maintenance training scenarios: functional tests, fault isolation, troubleshooting, and remove and installation for 27 subsystems. Sources: Kratos Oct 1/13 release.

    FY 2013

    SAR shows program cost increases; Ground Test Vehicle delivered; Flight test helicopters ordered. CH-53K GTV
    (click to view full)

    Sept 27/13: Sensors etc. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $20 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for:

    CH-53K, using FY 2013 USN RDT&E budget…

    • 5 AAQ-29 day/night surveillance turrets
    • 2 Memory Loader Verifier System cables
    • Software update, system integration, and test support

    USAF HH-60 search & rescue helicopters, using FY 2011 procurement budget…

    • 25 AAQ-29 day/night surveillance turrets
    • 25 L2G multifunction control units and 35 L2G system control units
    • 1 technical data package
    • 1 repair of repairables analysis

    All funds are committed immediately, and $16.2 million expires on Sept 30/13. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX (92%) and El Segundo, CA, (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0018).

    Sept 23/13: IG OK. The Pentagon’s Inspector General submits a non-public report concerning the CH-53K program. Their public statement: the program has been managed appropriately, but it may not meet its February 2016 Milestone C decision date, or its revised costs.

    The Acquisition Program Baseline was updated on April 24/13, to address cost growth and schedule delays. Contractor manufacturing delays and component testing failures, hence the risk of not being ready in time for the low-rate production decision, and not meeting even its revised costs. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics is aware of these issues. Sources: OIG, “CH-53K Program Management Is Satisfactory, but Risks Remain (Project No. D2013-D000CD-0095.000)”.

    July 17/13: Engines. General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA receives a $15.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy “time critical parts” for incorporation into the CH-53K’s T408-GE-400 gas turbine engine. All funds are committed immediately by the US Navy.

    Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in December 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-2-1(a)(1) by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-13-C-0132).

    June 27/13: Sub-contractors. Boeing spinoff Spirit Aerosystems announces a $60 million sub-contract, as a result of the #435 million order for 4 System Demonstration Test Article helicopters (q.v. May 30/13). Spirit makes the base cockpit and cabin, essentially the body of the helicopter.

    Spirit will begin work during 2013 at its Wichita, KS facility, with deliveries to Sikorsky’s CH-53K prototype assembly line in West Palm Beach, FL to begin in 2014. When the helicopters are finished, they’ll enter Operational Evaluation in 2017, to verify that their performance meets projections. The contract follows over $150 million in work on 7 structures, for the first 5 prototype test helicopters and the 2 ground test frames.

    Spirit recently announced work with Spintech Ventures, of Xenia, OH on a set of trademarked products called Inflexion/ Smart Tooling. The technology uses re-formable, reusable mandrels that can change states through the layup and cure phases. That helps form complex, highly integrated composite structures into large and/or unusual shapes and configurations – like full integration of skins, stringers, and frames or ribs in one step. Spirit | Wichita Eagle | Spirit re: Inflexion.

    May 31/13: Hostile IG Report. The Pentagon’s Inspector General issues a report under Audit Project No. D2012-D000CD-0037.000, telling the USMC that the CH-53K’s program increase to 200 helicopters isn’t justified. The Marines politely tell the IG to stick it where Chesty can’t find it.

    The Inspector General’s statement that “the Marine Corps risks spending $22.2 billion in procurement and operating and support funding for 44 additional aircraft” is a blatant error – that’s the entire 2011 program cost for 200, plus R&D. Beyond that, they complain that the USMC:

    • did not follow the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System Instruction and obtain Joint Requirements Oversight Council [DID: JROC] approval for the increase;
    • did not have requirement studies prepared to determine a procurement quantity in consideration of program affordability;
    • incorrectly relied on a 2008 memorandum from the Deputy Commandant for Aviation directing the increase of the procurement quantity to 200 aircraft, without support;
    • incorrectly used the 2010-2011 Force Structure Review’s war-gaming scenarios as justification for the quantity increase; and
    • did not justify or appropriately consider the impact of the Marine Corps personnel reductions effect on Heavy Lift quantity requirements.

    In response, the USMC Deputy Commandant says the existing analyses do justify it, and JROC approved the 200. Then the Milestone Decision Authority approves the Marine Corps’ request to rebaseline the program with a 54% procurement cost increase over the 2005 baseline (a jump from Dec 2011 figures, if true) and formally push the Milestone C decision from December 2012 to February 2016 (later than the current August 2015). The IG wants additional comments re: the re-baselining. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but the whole process seems like an ad for the Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure, who argues that the Pentagon’s procurement processes are an out of control overhead burden. It’s all about paper, rather than the soundness of the conclusion. And you can’t use what you learn in war games to change procurement decisions? What idiot thinks that’s a good idea? Pentagon IG Report.

    May 30/13: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $435.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, to buy 4 CH-53K System Demonstration Test Article helicopters. The April 5/06 System Development & Demonstration contract already included 4 test helicopters, and US NAVAIR and Sikorsky subsequently confirm that these 4 SDTA helicopters are a different set that the Marines will test during operational evaluation. The buy is structured as an additional line item under the 2006 contract, and initial funding will use $48.1 million in FY 2013 RDT&E budgets.

    Sikorsky CH-53K Program VP Dr. Michael Torok says the SDTA helos will be based on the configuration of the 4th and final flight test aircraft from the 2006 contract, which is currently being assembled on the prototype production line. To date, Sikorsky has delivered 2 non-flying SDD CH-53Ks: the Ground Test Vehicle and the Static Test Article. That leaves the 4 flight test prototypes, 1 stationary Fatigue Test CH-53K, and now the 4 SDTA helicopters. First flight of a CH-53K prototype is now expected in “late 2014” instead of Spring 2014, and this contract requires 1st SDTA delivery by September 2016. Final delivery is scheduled by the time OpEval begins in March 2017, with incentives for early delivery.

    Work will be performed in Stratford, CT (17%); West Palm Beach, FL (17%); Wichita, KS (15%); Salt Lake City, UT (10%); St. Louis, MO (4%); Bridgeport, WVA (3%); Windsor Locks, CT (3%); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (2%); Redmond, WA (2%); Forest, OH (2%); Jackson, MS (2%); Cudahy, WI (2%); Irvine, CA (2%); Kent, WA (1.2%); Bristol, United Kingdom (1%); Phoenix, AZ (1%); Chesterfield, MO (1%); Los Angeles, CA (1%); Rochester, United Kingdom (1%); Buckinhamshire, United Kingdom (1%); Longueil, Quebec, Canada (1%); Cedar Rapids, IA (0.8%); Twinsburg, OH (0.8%); St. Clair, PA (0.5%), and various other locations (8.7%) (N00019-06-C-0081). See also US NAVAIR | Sikorsky

    4 flight test helos

    May 24/12: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF].

    “CH-53K Heavy Lift Replacement Helicopter – Program costs increased $1,897.6 million (+7.1%) from $26,626.8 million to $28,524.4 million, due primarily to changing the cost estimating methodology from analogy-based to supplier bottom-up (+$1,796.6 million), use of commercial indices for materiel escalation costs (+$948.9 million), revised escalation indices (+$539.4 million), an increase in the production line shutdown estimate (+$120.7 million), and an increase in support equipment, repair of repairables, and spares costs (+$64.9 million). These increases were partially offset by decreases in other support costs (-$664.0 million), initial spares requirements (-$589.0 million), and the application of new inflation indices (-$385.3 million).”

    To put the estimating into English, the program had estimated costs based on similar programs, but now they’ve gone through the chosen suppliers and built an estimate using actual costs for components and materials, plus commercial figures for raw materials etc. The result adds almost $2.85 billion to the program, and other cost jumps bring the total increase to $3.47 billion. The downward revisions to spares and support, and to inflation, prevent costs from rising over 13%.

    Are the changes reasonable? We won’t know until flight testing is well underway and time has revealed real inflation costs, but there’s reason to be skeptical. It could be a case of “paper cuts now, then cost increases once production is underway and jobs in Congressional districts are committed.” We’ll have to talk to the program to even begin to judge.

    SAR: program cost increases – questionable cuts?

    May 17/13: General Electric in Lynn, MA receives a $7.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order to buy critical hard tooling required to support the manufacture of the CH-53K’s GE38-1B engines. The current order involves GE38s for the CH-53K System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) helicopters, and they’re the engine’s inaugural platform.

    Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (20%); Morristown, TN (20%); Groton, CT (20%); Hooksett, NH (10%); Fort Wayne, IN (10%); North Clarendon, VT (10%); and Albany, OR (10%); and is expected to be complete in November 2014. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 RDT&E budgets (N00019-10-G-0007).

    March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. Overall, expected costs have risen (q.v. March 30/12 entry), though the added cost per helicopter is only 5.6% above the baseline. The “ground test vehicle” non-flying model has been delivered, but issues with a test stand are delaying progress.

    GAO points out that the design is released, but not necessarily finished. The big break in the program remains the April 2011 shift from a cost-plus award fee to cost-plus incentive fee contract, tied to specific cost and schedule goals, and associated with a much-delayed schedule. The next big event will be the beginning of system-level prototype testing in 2013.

    Dec 4/12: Testing. Sikorsky delivers the 1st CH-53K Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) prototype. It won’t fly, just help test the performance of the rotor blades, transmission, and engines. The 4 follow-on flight test helicopters aren’t expected to fly until 2014-2015. Sikorsky.

    GTV delivered

    FY 2012

    GAO report says development will need more $; Last CH-53D retired. CH-53E lifts M113 APC

    May 6/12: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $7.8 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to incorporate CH-53K live fire test and evaluation. This is exactly what it sounds like – the Navy will shoot lots of holes in test platforms, and assess damage resistance.

    Work will be performed at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, CA (80%), and Stratford, CT (20%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2018 (N00019-06-C-0081).

    April 12/12: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $25.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, to provide detailed maintenance plans in support of the CH-53K helicopter program. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and is expected to be complete in December 2015 (N00019-06-C-0081).

    March 30/12: GAO report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. With respect to the CH-53K:

    “Program officials reported that in July 2011, the contract’s estimated cost was increased by $724 million to $3.4 billion. According to Defense Contract Management Agency officials, the estimated contract costs increased because of several factors including the need for additional flight test hours and spare parts, increased material costs, and design complexity. The contract was also changed from cost-plus award fee to cost-plus incentive fee for the remaining period of performance. The incentive fees are tied to specific cost and schedule goals… According to Marine Corps officials, a force structure review has been conducted to assess the required quantity of aircraft and that review determined that the requirement for 200 aircraft is still valid despite the proposed manpower reduction.”

    Feb 28/12: Avionics. Northrop Grumman announces a $5.6 million Phase II contract from US NAVAIR to modify existing software for the CH-53K’s LN-251 embedded GPS/fiber-optic inertial navigation system (INS). Northrop Grumman’s Navigation Systems Division will provide updated software and engineering support for platform integration and flight tests, to both NAVAIR and Sikorsky Aircraft.

    Feb 24/12: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $15.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee CH-53K contract modification. The program needs a condition-based maintenance plus software toolset (almost certainly ISS – vid. Oct 26/11), to integrate the helicopter’s onboard prognostics and the Navy’s fleet common operating environment maintenance computers. The contract includes installation, operation, and recurring data analysis.

    Funds and work will be assigned if and as needed, and work will be performed in Lexington Park, MD (90%), and Stratford, CT (10%). The contract is expected to run until February 2018. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-06-C-0081).

    Feb 10/12: USMC retires CH-53D. The USMC holds a “sundown ceremony” to retire its CH-53D Sea Stallion fleet, leaving only CH-53E Super Stallions. See also Aug 16/10 entry. US NAVAIR explains that the retirement isn’t immediate, but it is imminent:

    “The Sea Stallion’s last mission is currently underway with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The helicopter will be flown from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay to its final destination at the Pacific Aviation Museum, where it will be displayed.”

    CH-53D retired

    Dec 19/11: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces a follow-on contract from US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD to define system requirements for the integration of its LN-251 embedded global positioning system (GPS)/fiber-optic inertial navigation system (INS) on the new CH-53K.

    The firm touts the LN-251 system as “the world’s smallest, lightest navigation-grade embedded GPS/INS unit in its class… [whose] modular, open architecture supports additional applications and evolving requirements.”

    Oct 26/11: Recognition. The CH-53K Helicopter Systems Engineering Team wins a Department of Defense Systems Engineering Top 5 Programs Award, at the annual NDIA Systems Engineering Conference Award Luncheon in San Diego, CA. US NAVAIR.

    Oct 26/11: ISS Patent. Sikorsky Aerospace Services’ Integrated Support System (ISS) aftermarket software suite has received a patent. ISS integrates onboard diagnostics (vid. Sept 26/08 HUMS entry) and usage data with ground-based troubleshooting and service information. This technology is part of Sikorsky’s efforts to move toward proactive diagnostics, and ISS platforms for the Sikorsky CH-53K and S70i are under development. Future plans include expansion to other aircraft types. Sikorsky.

    Oct 11/11: Sub-contractors. Thermoplastic composites firm Fiberforge announces the addition of Njord A. Rota as its CH-53K Program Manager. They explain that the Lockheed Martin veteran will lead all management aspects of Fiberforge’s work for DRS Technologies Inc. Their work includes the design, development and production of the carbon fiber composite components within the CH-53K’s Internal Cargo Handling System. Helihub.

    FY 2011

    GE delivers 1st engine, sees GE38 civil and military market potential as $4+ billion; Sikorsky unveils virtual reality center, FAFO experimental assembly line.

    August 2011: Re-baselined. The CH-53K program undergoes a major time shift. Delivery dates for engineering development models are moved, 1st flight is pushed back to 2014, and Initial Operational Capability is moved from 2015 to 2018 (later 2019). Source: GAO.

    Contract rebaselined

    GE38 engine
    (click to view full)

    Aug 4/11: Engine. GE has delivered the 1st GE38 engine, for use on the Sikorsky CH-53K Ground Test Vehicle. After 2 years of testing, GE touts 57% more power and 18% lower specific fuel consumption than the CH-53E’s similarly-sized GE T64, while using 63% fewer parts.

    In addition to the CH-53K SDD program’s 20 flight engines, the GE38 testing program includes 5 factory-test engines that will accumulate more than 5,000 engine test hours by 2013. GE is pushing ahead on its engine despite CH-53K delays, and expects it to have applications in the fixed wing and naval markets, alongside its helicopter potential. They see a total civil and military market potential of $4+ billion. GE.

    June 21/11: Industrial. Sikorsky announces that they’ve begun assembly of the CH-53K Ground Test Vehicle (GTV), which is currently in position 4 on the line. It’s the 1st of 5 prototype CH-53Ks to be assembled at the Sikorsky Florida Assembly and Flight Operations (FAFO) facility in West Palm Beach, FL, which opened in March 2011.

    Another 2 GTVs will be assembled at Sikorsky’s main manufacturing plant in Stratford, CT, making 3 ground test and 4 flight test helicopters. CH-53K ground testing is scheduled to begin in early 2012, and flight testing during FY 2014. To give one a sense of the CH-53K, its rotor hub and transmission alone weigh 15,000 pounds – about the empty weight of a UH-60 Black Hawk.

    April 2011: Restructuring. The CH-53K program undergoes a major shift. The SDD contract is changed from a cost-plus award fee structure to cost-plus incentive fee contract, which is tied to specific cost and schedule goals. Source: GAO.

    Contract restructured

    March 22/11: Industrial. Sikorsky officially opens its new 60,000 square foot Florida Assembly and Flight Operations (FAFO) campus, establishing experimental assembly line operations for the new CH-53K heavy lift helicopter. The FAFO line introduces a set of new manufacturing technologies. It’s equipped with wireless data connections to all operator plasma data screens, uses digital operation sheets, and is outfitted with overhead power and air dropdowns, new aircraft work stands, and overhead cranes. Sikorsky, incl. video.

    Feb 16/11: Sub-contractors. Donaldson provides an update regarding its Engine Air Particle Protection System, which is a critical piece of equipment in desert or dusty environments. They received the contract in September 2007:

    “We built the first full-scale EAPPS in just three months following the CDR, [DID: which was August 2010]” said Sheila Peyraud, General Manager, Aerospace and Defense at Donaldson. “Developmental testing began in November 2010 to support testing of the helicopter’s GE38-1B engine in 2011. We are pleased that initial results in this phase of the program are exceeding expectations originally set during the conceptual design phase. Qualification testing will begin in May 2011.”

    Jan 14/11: Industrial. Sikorsky unveils a state-of-the-art virtual reality center for the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter program, attempting to help identify production and maintenance issues before the initial build takes place by using a 3-dimensional digital environment.

    Located within the engineering labs at Sikorsky’s main manufacturing facility in Stratford, CT, the virtual reality center uses sophisticated software, along with 12 cameras, a head-mounted display headset, gloves, and a gripping tool. All devices are linked to 3 computers, which comprise the “command center” for operating the system.

    Nov 19/10: Sub-contractors. ITT Corporation (formerly EDO) announces that after nearly 3 years of advanced design, development, testing and manufacturing, they’ve delivered the first pair of CH-53K sponsons to Sikorsky. Each sponson is 25 feet long by 4 feet wide and 5 feet high, and fits on the helicopter’s side to house landing gear, fuel, and other mechanical and electrical assemblies.

    ITT used composite materials instead of traditional sheet metal for the sponsons, and hopes they’ll provide benefits in weight, corrosion resistance, and in-flight stress tolerance. To make that work, ITT has to use advanced manufacturing technologies like electronic model control, laser-ply projection, 5-axis computer numerically controlled machining, automated trimming and drilling, and laser and ultrasonic inspection of all subassemblies. The CH-53K parts will be built at ITT’s Electronic Systems facility in Salt Lake City, UT.

    FY 2010

    Why was the CH-53K program pushed back 2 years?; SAR raises plans to 200; Critical Design Review passed; AAQ-29 surveillance turrets for CH-53K; No more “boneyard” CH-53D/Es left. CH-53Ds in Hawaii
    (click for video)

    Sept 6/10: Sub-contractors. GKN Aerospace delivers the first major CH-53K structural assembly to Sikorsky – an aft transition fuselage section that measures approximately 20′ x 9′ x 9′, built of an advanced hybrid composite, aluminum and titanium structure covered with external composite skins.

    GKN Aerospace was accorded full design authority and manufacturing responsibility for the CH-53K helicopter aft transition fuselage section, cargo ramp, and overhead door structural assemblies in 2007. Structural design is carried out by the GKN Aerospace Engineering Development Center in Nashville, TN, and manufacturing of over 1,000 separate components takes place at the Company’s plant in St. Louis, MO. GKN Aerospace is employing manufacturing technologies including automated fibre placement (AFP), automated trim and drill, and digital inspection. GKN Aerospace.

    Aug 16/10: CH-35D plans. DoD Buzz looks at the shifting plans to replace the USMC’s 30 CH-53D Sea Stallions. The original plan was to replace them with MV-22s. At some point in 2007/08, the Marine Corps formally decided replace their aging CH-53Ds with CH-53Ks. But now USMC Lt. General Trautman is saying that he wants an east coast and a west coast MV-22 squadron to replace the CH-53Ds in Afghanistan, and “When I can do that, that’ll be the start of getting CH-53 Delta out of the way.”

    Exactly what “out of the way” means is ambiguous. If it means out of service, DoD Buzz correctly notes that this raises questions about the USMC’s support for the CH-53K, and would seem to be better news for the MV-22. If it means “shifted back to Hawaii while MV-22s serve in Afghanistan,” that would be something else. The exact meaning isn’t 100% clear in the article.

    Aug 3/10: CDR. Sikorsky announces a successful Critical Design Review for its CH-53K, following a week-long meeting in late July that included representatives from the military, Sikorsky, and 21 industrial partners. At the review, the CH-53K team had to demonstrate that their design meets NAVAIR’s system requirements. System-level performance projections indicate that all 7 Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) will be achieved with adequate risk mitigation margin built-in. Over 93% of the design has been released for manufacturing, and the final design definition concludes, the next step involves initial prototypes and testing.

    The overall program CDR follows previous efforts including a System Requirements Review (SRR), System Functional Review (SFR), System Preliminary Design Review (PDR), 77 supplier-level CDRs, 64 supplier and internal software reviews, and 16 sub-system CDRs. Sikorsky VP and CH-53K Chief Engineer Mike Torok offers an update of other preparations:

    “Parts are being made throughout the supply base and at our new Precision Component Technology Center; test facilities are being fabricated and prepped for installation in our recently opened ground test facility; the integrated simulation facility is marching toward a late 2010 opening, already having received the first increment of software for the aircraft; and the final assembly facility in West Palm Beach is being prepared to start building the ground and flight vehicles early next year. It’s time now to prove out our design and show that this helicopter system will indeed meet the war fighting requirements of the USMC…”


    June 28/10: Sub-contractors. Raytheon Co. in El Segundo, CA received a $26.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 50 forward looking infrared devices that will be fitted to CH-53E (42) and CH-53K (8) helicopters. Discussions with corporate representatives confirm that these will be AN/AAQ-29 turrets, using a 480 x 640 element, 3-5 micron wavelength indium antimonite infrared detector, and a 2 field of view telescope on a 12-inch diameter turret.

    This is a follow-on to a previous order. Work under this basic ordering agreement will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete in June 2012. $530,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-10-G-0018).

    June 4/10: No more CH-53D/Es. US NAVAIR announces that it has delivered the last available CH-53s from storage at AMARG in Tucson, AZ. The last H-53E to come out of desert retirement was delivered to Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 302 on May 7/10, while the last CH-53D was delivered April 16/10.

    Since the start of the program in August 2005, FRC East H-53 artisans have inducted and completed 10 of the heavy-lift helicopters. The team delivered 8 CH-53Es and 2 CH-53Ds, some of which had been idle for as many as 11 years, ahead of schedule and under budget. Each helicopter still took about 25,000 total work hours for all testing, modifications, and maintenance. Sikorsky ended CH-53 production in 1999, so AMARG was the last remaining source of airframes.

    Boneyard out of CH-53s

    May 10/10: Engine. Flight International reports that even though the CH-53E is delayed, GE remains committed to delivering the 7,500 shp class GE38-1 engine on schedule. The firm sees re-engining opportunities and related sales beyond the CH-53K, so they’ve begun delivering GE38s for ground tests years before airframes become available for flight test.

    As of Feb 15/10, GE had recorded 176 engine starts and 177 operating hours, with sustained power of 7,760 shp and peak power of 8,300 shp. April 2010 saw delivery of a 2nd engine for ground tests.

    The article is less positive about the CH-53K’s odds of winning the German/French heavy-lift helicopter program. Apparently, Germany wants a helicopter that will fit key vehicles internally, not underslung. Ultimately, the question will be whether Germany can afford to develop what it wants, can find it elsewhere, or is forced to remove some requirements.

    April 29/10: Why the delay? DefenseTech reports that the USMC has pushed back the initial flight date of the CH-53K by 2 years to FY 2013, and Initial Operational Capability by 3 years to FY 2018, “with little concrete justification beyond an ‘overly aggressive initial program schedule’ “, and while stressing that the program has not run into technical problems. Craig Hooper writes:

    “The CH-53K was an unsung showpiece for those preaching the virtues of incremental development, and, as a result, appetite for the platform has grown by about 30 percent, with the program of record expected to increase from 156 aircraft to 200. But, in the process, the CH-53K has become something of a MV-22-killer. Is this the problem?… In late 2009, the Marine Corps decided to go with the CH-53Ks to replace their 40-year old CH-53D fleet (MV-22 Ospreys were originally slated to replace the CH-53D). At about the same time, Israel decided to forego the Osprey for the CH-53K, killing the Osprey’s best hope of snaring an international buyer. And with the Osprey 65% availability and the MV-22s high operating costs of about $11,000 dollars an hour… worse, studies from the Pentagon demonstrated that a CH-53K-equipped big-deck amphib provided a lot more logistical support for embarked Marines than the MV-22… Slowing CH-53K development will… prevent real-data comparisons between platforms… [until] a second multi-year MV-22 contract gets signed in FY 2013. Even worse, slowing the CH-53K schedule raised the program price by at least $1.1 billion dollars, raising the per-unit price… Why slow a program that stands to be a high-demand showpiece with potential markets in Israel, Germany, France, Turkey, Singapore and Taiwan?”

    Asked for a response, US MARCORSYSCOM said that US NAVAIR was the only agency that could respond; NAVAIR did not respond to DID’s simultaneous inquiry.

    April 1/10: SAR – Program grows. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The CH-53K is included, because the Marines want more of them – but there’s a self-imposed catch:

    “CH-53K – Program costs increased $6,817.8 million (+36.4%) from $18,708.3 million to $25,526.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 44 aircraft from 156 to 200 aircraft (+$3,108.9 million), and increases in other support costs (+$749.7 million) and initial spares (+$456.2 million) associated with the quantity increase. Costs also increased due to a three-year delay in the procurement profile shifting initial purchases from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2016 (+$1,148.4 million), schedule growth attributable to funding constraints (+$669.6 million), and an increase in the cost estimate for the development contract (+$611.2 million).”

    Feb 22/10: Sub-contractors. Cobham announces [PDF] a sub-contract from Sikorsky to manufacture all leading and trailing edge details and precisely locate and bond the details onto the CH-53K’s main rotor blade spar.

    The work will be done by its Antenna Systems unit, which has consolidated all composites-related operations within the company. Depending on how many CH-53K helicopters are eventually built by Sikorsky for the US Marine Corps, the contract could be worth up to $25 million.

    Jan 22/10: Industrial. Sikorsky formally opens its new $20 million Precision Components Technology Center, as part of United Technologies Corp.’s $130 million investment the CH-53K program.

    The center currently employs 8 people, and was designed to allow the development of new product lines with “zero setup time” and quick changeover from one component to another. The center will produce major dynamic components of the CH-53K helicopter such as rotating and stationary swashplates, main and tail rotor hubs, and main rotor sleeves. The equipment in the center has the capability to produce any precision rotor and drive system dynamic component, including earlier-model configurations, and forgings machined there can be up to double the size of previous on-site limits. Sikorsky release.

    Jan 7/10: IDR. Sikorsky announces the wrap-up of its Integration Design Review for the CH-53K, in preparation for the Critical Design Review coming in 2010. The event included industrial team members , and personnel from US NAVAIR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Risk reduction initiatives on the critical split torque main gear box and the advanced main rotor blade are done, and 2010 will also hold a Technology Readiness Assessment. Initial Operational Capability is currently slated for early 2016.

    Established features of the CH-53K helicopter currently include a joint-interoperable glass (digital screens) cockpit; fly-by-wire flight controls; 4th generation rotor blades with anhedral tips; a low-maintenance elastomeric rotor head; upgraded engines; a locking cargo rail system; external cargo handling improvements; survivability enhancements; and design for reduced operation and support costs. Sikorsky release.

    FY 2009

    CH-53s flying at 3x planned usage; 1st GE38 engine test; VELD removed from the design; Sub-contractors picked. CH-53E, Cobra Gold 2002
    (click to view full)

    July 28/09: Engine. The GE38 team holds a ceremony at General Electric in Lynn, MA, celebrating the completion of the first full GE38 engine test. This first engine test, which began June 24/09, focused on basic engine checkout and risk reduction. All engine test parameters were within predicted values.

    SDD phase testing will include 5 ground-test engines that will accumulate more than 5,000 engine test hours, plus production of 20 flight-test engines for the CH-53K development helicopters (each helicopter carries 3 engines). NAVAIR release.

    May 7/09: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a contract from Sikorsky to develop and supply data concentrator units for the CH-53K. Curtiss-Wright’s system consists of 2 data concentrator units (DCUs) that will receive and provide various avionic and air vehicle discrete, digital and analog inputs for monitoring, processing data and controlling various CH-53K subsystem components.

    Curtiss-Wright’s Motion Control segment will develop and manufacture the DCU systems at its newly-opened City of Industry, CA, facility. The initial contract runs through 2011 with the production phase starting in 2013. The contract has a total potential value of $22 million when development and all aircraft production options and phases are completed.

    April 21/09: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Controls Inc., announces a contract from United Technologies subsidiary Claverham Ltd. (a Hamilton Sundstrand Flight Systems business unit) to provide multi-channel linear variable displacement transducers (LVDTs) for the fly-by-wire (FBW) systems controlling the main rotor and tail rotor on the Sikorsky UH-60M Upgrade and CH-53K helicopters.

    The LVDTs are special pressure sealed linear displacement transducers that are embedded in Claverham’s Primary Flight Control Actuators. The transducers provide electrical signals that are proportional to the position of the hydraulic actuator rod, and the actuators change pitch angles on the main and tail rotors in response to the pilot’s commands.

    These two programs have a potential contract value in excess of $20 million over a 15-year period, with shipments expected to begin in 2009. The company will supply these products from its Christchurch, UK operation.

    March 30/09: GAO. The US GAO audit office delivers its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report, which looks at 47 programs including the CH-53K HLR. The CH-53K stands out, as one of the few programs to show lower R&D projections (from $4.23 billion to $4.17 billion) and estimated delivery time (2 months early) since its 2005 baseline. The truth is, the Marines have little choice. The time crunch has already begun:

    “According to program officials, all available decommissioned CH-53E helicopters have been reclaimed… Currently deployed CH-53E aircraft are flying at three times the planned utilization rate… The program intends to manufacture up to 29 of the 156 total [CH-53K] helicopters (19 percent) during low-rate initial production at the same time that it is conducting initial operational testing. While concurrent testing and production may help to field the systems sooner, it could also result in greater retrofit cost…”

    That’s likely, since a number of requirements and systems have been shelved, in order to deliver the helicopter on time:

    “Both of the CH-53K’s current critical technologies, the main rotor blade and the main gearbox, are immature and are expected to be fully mature following the low-rate initial production decision in 2013. The program replaced a third technology, the viscoelastic lag damper, with a modified version of an existing [linear hydraulic damper] technology. During preparations for the preliminary design review, it was discovered that maturing system engineering tasks would potentially require additional cost and time. As a result, the program eliminated noncritical requirements to contain costs and delayed the preliminary and critical design reviews and low-rate initial production decision.”

    Feb 8/09: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces contracts from Sikorsky Aircraft for development and initial deliveries of CH-53K Cockpit Seats and Cabin Armor Systems, and for integration of the CH-53K’s fly-by-wire flight controls. BAE Systems efforts will include design, development, testing, qualification, and delivery of initial systems to support the flight test and ground test aircraft. Follow-on contracts would be placed for production orders and spares.

    The seats will be based on BAE Security & Survivability Systems S7000 armored, crashworthy seats, and first deliveries of both seats and cabin armor are scheduled for 2010. The total value of the programs is estimated at approximately $90 million through 2022, if 156 CH-53K aircraft are built.

    FY 2008

    PDR successful; Sub-contractors picked. Iraq: CH-53E lifts UH-60
    (click to view full)

    September 2008: PDR. The CH-53K program conducts a successful Preliminary Design Review. Source.


    Sept 26/08: Sub-contractors – HUMS. Goodrich announces that it has been picked to supply its IVHMS Health Usage and Monitoring Systems (HUMS) for the CH-53K. HUMS are embedded sensors within the aircraft’s key components, like engines. They monitor these systems, and can often tell if things are beginning to wrong inside before something actually breaks.

    Avoiding breakdowns, and helping to pinpoint problems faster if something does break, saves money. Further savings can be had by using HUMS in conjunction with advanced maintenance and fleet management software. Once a baseline of good data is available, it becomes possible to switch from “do it just in case” maintenance and overhaul checklists, to “condition-based maintenance” that’s performed only when necessary, based on a combination of HUMS readings and predictive software.

    Goodrich has carved out a strong market position in this area, supplying HUMS systems of varying complexity for a number of US military helicopters. IVHMS will supposedly build on earlier IMDS systems implanted in the CH-53E, but will be broader in nature, monitoring “the CH-53K helicopter’s entire mechanical drive train from the engines to the rotor system, and hundreds of aircraft systems.”

    Sept 2/08: Sub-contractors. Breeze-Eastern Corporation announces that Sikorsky has picked them to provide the CH-53K’s Internal Cargo Winch System. The initial contract requires the delivery of 5 units for the System Design and Development phase.

    Breeze-Eastern has worked with Sikorsky in this area to supply the S-92, and to retrofit USMC CH-53Ds. Bloomberg.

    May 30/08: Camber Corp. in Huntsville, AL received an $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for program management, acquisition management, and engineering and technical services in support of the CH-53D, CH-53E, MH-53E, and CH-53K.

    Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD and is expected to be complete in November 2008. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, MD (N000421-08-C-0044).

    Feb 18/08: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that U.S. Naval Aviation Systems Command has picked their APR-39BvX radar warning receiver (RWR) integration program for the Navy’s CH-53K helicopter fleet. The APR-39 BvX upgrade, scheduled for completion and flight testing in late 2009 or early 2010, builds on the recently completed AvX program and includes new, faster processors and “massive” memory expansion.

    Under the terms of the $17 million phase Phase 2 contract, Northrop Grumman will incorporate all electronic warfare (EW) integration capabilities of the APR-39Av2 and APR-39Bv2 versions, which are variants of the same system tailored to the kind of aircraft computer and cockpit interfaces in Navy/USMC aircraft. The APR-39BvX program will create one interoperable version for the forthcoming CH-53K fleet. This phase 2 program will include electronic warfare controller and integration interfaces to multiple missile and laser warning sensors, and also tie the APR-39 into Northrop Grumman’s Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) systems onboard each of the helicopters. The intended result is a system providing warning and protection against electro-optical, infrared, and radar guided missiles, and electronic warfare threats. NGC release.

    Nov 6/07: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky has selected fellow United Technologies Corporation subsidiary Eaton Corporation to design, develop and supply the CH-53K’s integrated fuel system. This is in addition to the contract for the helicopter’s hydraulic power generation system and fluid conveyance package awarded to Eaton in July 2007.

    During the development phase of the program, which runs through 2014, Eaton will provide the integrated fuel system support hardware for 5 helicopter shipsets in addition to a number of system development test sets. “Based on expected production of more than 156 helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps, the contract value is approximately $96 million and, when combined with anticipated foreign military sales, is expected to exceed $160 million over the approximate 12-year life of the program.” Eaton release.

    FY 2007

    Sub-contractors picked; Sikorsky opens CH-53K development center. CH-53E Super Stallions:
    2 HMMWVs, to shore
    (click to view full)

    Sept 25/07: Sub-contractors. Donaldson Company announces that Sikorsky has picked them to provide the CH-53K’s engine air particle protection system (EAPPS), which helps keep blown sand and other contaminants from gumming up the helicopter’s engines.

    Sept 17/07: Sub-contractors. Fellow United Technologies’ subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand announces that they’ve been selected to supply integrated secondary power systems for the CH-53K, consisting of the environmental control system, auxiliary power unit and main engine start system. The environmental control system (flight deck and avionics air conditioning, cabin ventilation and heating, engine bleed system, and supply air for the onboard inert gas generation system) and main engine start system will be built at Hamilton Sundstrand’s Windsor Locks, CT facility. The Auxiliary Power Unit will be built at the company’s San Diego, CA facility.

    The contract includes design, development and production work; design and development will begin immediately with first hardware deliveries scheduled for 2009. Hamilton Sundstrand says that this agreement has a potential value of more than $400 million. The firm already holds contracts to supply the CH-53K’s fly-by-wire flight control computers, and primary main and tail rotor actuators. Hamilton Sundstrand release.

    Sept 4/07: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has selected Goodrich Corporation to act as integrator for the CH-53K’s input and tail drive shaft system, as well as supplying the electrical power generation and distribution system (q.v. June 17/07).

    July 12/07: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky Selects fellow UTC subsidiary Eaton to supply the CH-53K’s Hydraulic Power Generation System and Fluid Conveyance Package. During the development phase of the program, which runs through 2014, Eaton will provide support hardware for 10 aircraft shipsets. Based on expected production of more than 156 aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as anticipated foreign military sales, the potential value of the contract over the life of the program is expected to exceed $200 million. Eaton release.

    June 20/07: European HTL. France & Germany confirm their heavy-lift helicopter program, known as HTL in France and FHT in Germany. A full set of specifications have not been created yet, and the countries involved are still trying to decide whether to pay the price of a full R&D program to get exactly what they want, or base their helicopter on an existing design. Possible contenders include the CH-53K, Boeing’s CH-47F, and Rosvertol’s super-giant Mi-26T helicopter.

    June 18/07: Sub-contractors. Canadian aerospace manufacturer Heroux-Devtek Inc.’s Landing Gear Division received a contract from Sikorsky to design, develop, fabricate, assemble, test and deliver the CH-53K’s landing gears and tail bumper during the SDD phase, which includes the production of landing gears and tail bumper assemblies for 8 systems. Total revenue for the SDD and the Production Phase, which will be awarded in a separate contract, is expected to exceed C$ 95 million (about $89 million). Rotor News.

    June 17/07: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has selected Fortune 500 firm Goodrich Corporation to supply the electrical power generation and distribution system for the CH-53K program. Goodrich’s Pitstone Green, UK and Twinsburg, OH facilities will be involved in the development and delivery of a complete electrical power system for the aircraft, consisting of generators and controls; primary power distribution; AC/DC converters; battery; and external power controls.

    Goodrich currently supplies power generation for the Sikorsky S-92/H-92 Superhawk, and has recently been selected to supply the DC power generation for the Sikorsky’s upgraded S-76D civil helicopter. Rotor News | Goodrich press kit release incl. pictures

    May 9/07: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky Aircraft announces its selection of 4 subcontractors to design and fabricate the CH-53K’s major fuselage sections, “following an extensive solicitation and evaluation of multiple bids over a 12-month competition”: They include Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, VA; Bridgeport, WVA; and Columbus, MS; R&D in Cambridge, MA (main rotor pylon). EDO Corp. composites in Salt Lake City, UT; select resin transfer molding parts from Walpole, MA; and final assembly in North Amityville, NY (tail rotor pylon & side sponsons). GKN Aerospace in Nashville, TN & St. Louis, MO (aft transition). Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, KS (cockpit and cabin).

    Design will be conducted in a collaborative environment between supplier sites and Sikorsky’s Heavy Lift Development Center using model management systems linked to Sikorsky IT and data systems. Composite and titanium materials are being employed extensively to provide superior fatigue and corrosion durability at minimum weight, and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes such as co-curing, automated part fabrication, super high speed machining, and determinant assembly are being pressed into service to keep costs down. Sikorsky release.

    Assemblies will initially be built for 7 test and certification aircraft (4 Engineering Development Models, 1 Ground Test Vehicle, 1 Static Test Article and 1 Fatigue Test Article.) The CH-53K SDD program schedule runs through the end of September 2015.

    ADDENDA: GKN Aerospace’s release says that they’re contracted to deliver their 7 development ship sets to Sikorsky between 2009 – 2012, and estimates that this deal could be worth up to $70 million to them. Aurora Flight Sciences’ release clarifies that the Main Rotor Pylon (MRP) is one of 6 major fuselage sections; it is mostly made of composite materials, and houses the CH-53K’s Main Rotor Head, the No. 2 engine and other aircraft subsystems. EDO Release [PDF]

    Feb 12/07: Manufacturing. Sikorsky Opens the CH-53K Development Center. The CH-53K program’s new Heavy Lift Development Center is a 106,000-square-foot office building in Stratford, CT, about 5 miles from Sikorsky’s main facility. It houses the CH-53K Program and Engineering staff, co-locating 500 team members consisting of Sikorsky, Naval Air Systems Command, Defense Contracting Management Agency personnel and subcontractors. These members work in Integrated Product Teams to design, develop, test and manufacture major systems and subsystems within the CH-53K.

    Dec 22/06: Engine picked. Sikorsky Aircraft has selected General Electric Aviation to provide the new CH-53K heavy lift helicopter’s main engines. The GE38-1B engine planned for the CH-53K is a derivative of the CFE738 commercial turbofan engine used in the Falcon 200 business jet; the CFE738 was in turn derived from the T407 turboprop intended to power the US Navy’s updated P-7 Orion (that program was canceled and a competition restarted that left the 737-derived P-8A MMA as the winner). See also GE’s Feb 7/07 release.

    According to this Flight International article, GE’s engine beat out Pratt & Whitney’s PW150 and a derivative of Rolls Royce’s AE1107 that powers the V-22 Osprey.

    Oct 30/06: Rotor. Sikorsky Aircraft has submitted test results for its 4th Generation(TM) rotor blade, which builds on the work done for the Growth Rotor Blade(TM) (GRB) currently used on their new UH-60M and S/H-92 helicopters, using anhedral tips. The CH-53K model wind tunnel testing performed late in the summer of 2006 has reportedly shown a significant improvement in forward flight efficiency over the GRB. Earlier in the year, similar model rotor hover testing indicated large gains in hover efficiency. Read Sikorsky’s release.

    FY 2004 – 2006

    Program OK and $3 billion development contract; European HTL opportunity? CH-53D at work
    (click to view full)

    July 19/06: European HTL. Jane’s reports that EADS Eurocopter is seeking partners for a “super lift” helicopter to be fielded around 2020 with the French & German militaries, and confirms that talks have been held with Sikorsky regarding a modified CH-53K with European avionics and a larger cabin.

    The Germans apparently want to replace their CH-53Gs (actually modified CH-53Ds) around 2020, and will look for upgrade programs to bridge the gap. The French currently lack heavy-lift helicopters in the CH-53 or CH-47 class, though the supergiant Russian Mi-26 was evaluated recently. Eurocopter and Sikorsky recently partnered on the successful $3 billion LUH program, but the firm has said it is keeping all its options open and is making no commitments.

    UPDATE: Germany is updating their CH-53Gs, and the 2 countries are also going ahead with the heavy lift helicopter program. The CH-53K is still a competitor. Where does it stand? Read “The European Heavy Lift Helicopter Program?

    April 5/06: SDD contract. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $3.04 billion modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-06-C-0081) for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the CH-53K aircraft, to include 4 SDD aircraft, 1 ground test vehicle, and associated program management and test support.

    Work will be performed in Stratford, CT and is expected to be complete in December 2015. See also NAVAIR release.

    SDD contract

    Dec 22/05: Green light. A formal decision by the Honorable Kenneth R. Krieg, US Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, gives the estimated $4.4 billion HLR program the green light to proceed to the System Definition and Development (SDD) phase.

    CH-53E Super Stallion
    (click to view full)

    August 25/05: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT received a $43.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previous basic ordering agreement to perform requirements definition and engineering studies in support of the Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) Program. Work on the requirements definition and engineering studies will be performed in Stratford, CT and is expected to be complete in April 2006.

    Jan 6/05: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT received an $8.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for preliminary design work in support of HLR, as part of the initial system development and demonstration of the Marine Corps’ CH-53X Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program. Work on the preliminary design contract (N00019-06-C-0081) will be performed in Stratford, CT and is expected to be complete in January 2008 (N00019-03-G-0003).

    Dec 23/04: A $34 million time and materials delivery order, issued against basic ordering agreement N00019-03-G-0003, to perform requirements definition and engineering studies in support of the Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Replacement Program. Work was performed in Stratford, CT, and was expected to be complete in May 2005.

    This contract number is not exclusive to the CH-53K. Other awards under this particular contract covered the Presidential Helicopter program (Sikorsky lost) and other helicopter engineering.

    Appendix A: Flying Between Scylla and Charbydis: Navigating the Political Shoals JHL: QTR Concept
    (click to view full)

    DID’s coverage of the HLR program has also included a report about HLR’s potential merger with the US Army’s futuristic JHL program. The Joint Heavy Lifter (JHL) is imagined as an aircraft with cargo capacity that approaches a C-130 Hercules transport (about 20 tons), but with the ability to take off and land like a helicopter. No current US military helicopter platform even comes close. JHL’s competitors are deploying some radical and different technologies in their attempt to achieve these goals – from quad tilt-rotors to coaxial skycranes and even compound helicopters.

    Marine Corps acquisition officials also weighed the option of participating in JHL. While Congress could always step in to force the issue – and may still do so – the Marine Corps note that this would be deeply unwise for a number of reasons:

    “The Army’s proposed heavy lift requirement to transport the Future Combat System greatly exceeds our requirement,” said program manager, Col. Paul Croisetiere. “The actual aircraft hasn’t been designed yet, but initial analysis suggests the joint heavy lifter will be too large to operate from current and programmed amphibious shipping. We may have a use for it, but in more of a logistical role as a possible KC-130J [air tanker] replacement – we still need the CH-53K for tactical heavy lift.”

    Joint Heavy Lifters may not be available any sooner than 2025, according to Croisetiere, which is more than 10 years after the Marine Corps will be forced to start retiring its current CH-53E fleet. Even if the Marines could use it, Croisetiere pointed out that as currently envisioned, JHL will be too big to operate from the Marines’ amphibious ships.

    V-22 Osprey

    This is a logical argument. However this rationale might sell better if the USMC hadn’t spent the last decade describing tilt-rotor technology as the necessary wave of the future that would make helicopters obsolete, in its quest to sell the $100 million per plane V-22 Osprey.

    When budgets are also being squeezed hard by multiple cost overruns on a wide swath of programs, programs that appear to be similar to each other will become big targets for Congressional cuts and pressure to merge. The US Marines have been the leading service advocates of tilt-rotor technology as a transformational necessity. Having invested so much of their prestige and credibility in the V-22, some people on Capitol Hill seem inclined to view the Marines’ rejection of a program that includes similar Quad Tilt Rotor and OSTR (Optimum Speed Tilt-Rotor) options as inconsistent, and hence mere territoriality. If this view spreads, it will not bode well for the HLR Program’s political survival.

    It certainly wouldn’t be the first time in US military procurement history that the promise of the shiny new thing has found itself in the way of fulfilling military necessities with cheaper, proven options.

    MH-53J Pave Low IV
    (click to view alt.)

    The natural response to such pressures would be twofold. One track would emphasize the comparatively speculative nature of the JHL Program’s technologies and their uncertain development timelines. The other track would tout the value of cheaper builds of proven helicopters, in order to meet immediate needs and an uncompromising timeline for fleet airframe life. This is exactly what Col. Paul Croisetiere has done.

    Making that argument, however, flies in the face of almost everything the USMC said when some in Congress pushed for immediately available conventional helicopter options to replace the Marines’ extremely aged Vietnam-era CH-46 Sea Knights. Options that would also have cost about half the price per aircraft. If the CH-46s could be patched together via life extension programs and extensive maintenance while the V-22s sorted out their difficulties and eventually reached production many years late, why not the CH-53Es? Especially if pursuing a similar tilt-rotor technology like the JHL’s QTR would reduce the V-22’s per-aircraft costs while increasing overall interoperability, and therefore easing long-term maintenance and logistics costs as well?

    These arguments may or may not be considered valid. Nevertheless, they should absolutely be expected as the Global War on Terror, unexpected future contingencies, and a looming demographic shift put increasing pressure on US defense budgets. The US Marine Corps has certainly prepared the ground well.

    The HLR program may have an eventful political journey ahead of it.

    Appendix B: Interesting Ideas: The CH-53X Skycrane Concept CH-53X Skycrane Concept
    (click for details)

    As a point of interest, this is one of the more innovative suggestions we’ve seen re: the next-generation CH-53X. It proposes turning the CH-53 into a “Skycrane” variant, and using it in conjunction with the trend toward “battle box” containerized forces, plus underslung light armor & vehicles.

    The idea is that this would improve both the CH-53E’s capabilities (via reducing aircraft weight but not power) and the USA’s transformational deployability (via faster and more versatile load and ship that would also improve tactical surprise).

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