U.S. Army moves toward pure fleet of upgraded Chinooks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Army con­tin­ues to mod­ern­ize the next-gen­er­a­tion F-mod­el CH-47 Chi­nook car­go heli­copter while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly work­ing to upgrade its entire fleet to F-mod­el air­craft, ser­vice offi­cials explained April 2, at the Army Avi­a­tion Asso­ci­a­tion of America’s 2012 Pro­fes­sion­al Forum and Expo­si­tion.

Fort Camp­bell, Ky., receives the first CH-47F Chi­nook heli­copter dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny Aug. 15, 2007. The Army now has 169 of the upgrad­ed F-mod­el Chi­nooks and plans to have a fleet of 440 by 2018.
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Thus far, the Army has accept­ed deliv­ery of 169 F-mod­el Chi­nooks, car­go heli­copters engi­neered with next-gen­er­a­tion avion­ics, elec­tron­ics and cock­pit dig­i­tal mov­ing map dis­plays, said Lt. Col. Brad Killen, CH-47 F-mod­el project man­ag­er.

Ulti­mate­ly, the Army plans to have a “pure” fleet of 440 F-mod­el Chi­nooks by 2018, he added.

“The goal here is to go to all F’s. When you look at a D-mod­el Chi­nook, it still has the steam gauges in it; where­as if you look at the F-mod­el, it has five mul­ti-func­tion dis­plays and full-motion video screens,” Killen said.

Killen explained the tremen­dous val­ue-added of the Chi­nook F’s Com­mon Avi­a­tion Archi­tec­ture Sys­tem, or CASS cock­pit, which con­sists of mul­ti-func­tion dig­i­tal dis­plays pro­vid­ing pilots with sit­u­a­tion­al and nav­i­ga­tion­al infor­ma­tion.

“With CAAS we’ve got a mov­ing map. Now that a mov­ing map is in front of me, I have all my instru­ments in front of me. It’s reduced the work load,” he said.

The F-mod­el Chi­nook rep­re­sents the lat­est iter­a­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment in what is a long and dis­tin­guished his­to­ry for the work­horse car­go air­craft, often tasked with deliv­er­ing food, troops and sup­plies at high alti­tudes in moun­tain­ous Afghan ter­rain.

In fact, 2012 marks the 50th anniver­sary of the Army’s first CH-47 Chi­nook deliv­ery which took place in 1962, said Col. Bob Mar­i­on, pro­gram man­ag­er, car­go air­craft.

In fact, that very first A-mod­el Chi­nook received by the Army was recent­ly found to be fly­ing mis­sions in Afghanistan, Mar­i­on said.

“I was sur­prised to find out that that first A-mod­el was in Afghanistan. It is now a D-mod­el as we have mod­ern­ized the air­craft over time. This leads me to reflect on how much the Chi­nook means to the Army and our nation, includ­ing all of those Sol­diers who have worked on and flown in it for 50 years,” he added. “As we talk about the Future Ver­ti­cal Lift and Armed Aer­i­al Scout pro­grams, we talk about con­tin­u­ing to use the Chi­nook as the medi­um and heavy lift solu­tion to meet the Army’s needs. It is there­fore impor­tant for us to keep these air­craft fly­ing and rel­e­vant for the next gen­er­a­tion of Army avi­a­tors.”

The Chi­nook pro­gram is prepar­ing to issue its next mul­ti-year pro­cure­ment con­tract for the F-mod­el air­craft by Jan­u­ary 2013, Mar­i­on said.

As the Army con­tin­ues to tran­si­tion to a pure fleet of F-mod­el Chi­nooks, the pro­gram office has, in the past year, stood up a spe­cial pro­gram man­ag­er tasked with pur­su­ing addi­tion­al mod­ern­iza­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties for the air­craft, Mar­i­on explained.

These efforts include the addi­tion of new, com­pos­ite rotor blades able to add 2,000-pounds of addi­tion­al lift capa­bil­i­ty to the air­craft. Tthe advanced com­pos­ite rotor blade effort, which has already gone through some wind-tun­nel test­ing, is slat­ed for flight test­ing in the sum­mer of 2015, said Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl, prod­uct man­ag­er, Chi­nook mod­ern­iza­tion.

The Chi­nook pro­gram is also devel­op­ing a new Car­go On/Off Load­ing Sys­tem, or COOLS, engi­neered to build rollers into the floor to bet­ter expe­dite on and off-load­ing of sup­plies and gear, Hoecherl explained.

Hav­ing recent­ly com­plet­ed its Crit­i­cal Design Review, COOLS will start field­ing in Feb­ru­ary of next year, Hoecherl said.

“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,” Killen said.

COOLS is also built with addi­tion­al under­neath bal­lis­tic pro­tec­tion sys­tems, Hoecherl added.

The CH-47 F pro­gram is also plan­ning to add Con­di­tioned-Based Main­te­nance to the air­craft — small, portable diag­nos­tic devices, which enable air­craft engi­neers to bet­ter pre­dict main­te­nance needs and poten­tial mechan­i­cal fail­ures, Hoecherl explained.

“The Car­go Plat­form Health Envi­ron­ment, or CPHE, will pro­vide con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of all the vibra­tions. It will bring diag­nos­tics and prog­nos­tics, which will help pre­dict what might go wrong with the air­craft. Next month we will start doing the val­i­da­tion for the instal­la­tion of CPHE,” Hoecherl said.

U.S. Army

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