The Boeing MH-47G – a special operations variant of the CH-47 Chinook multirole, heavy-lift helicopter – has received more investment from the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 10 March.
The DoD contract will see Boeing procure even more long lead components and parts in support of the MH-47G. The DoD says that this “contract action supports a requirement for replacement of the aging fleet of remanufactured MH-47G aircraft that has airframe components dating back more than 45 years”.
This contract, issued on 10 March 2023, follows another DoD contract for the same parts on 14 July 2022. The first of these contracts in 2022 awarded Boeing $18,559,000, while the latest in 2023 awarded the company a further $18,749,000 for more of these components.
Boeing states that the MH-47G “provides commonality across the fleet to ensure that the Chinook fleet will be available to serve for decades to come”. All the while the need for modernised parts remains a problem for US Special Operations Command.
While all militaries are feeling the panic to modernise their platforms and capabilities in the current security climate, the component changes to the MH-47G still remain unresolved, and another procurement contract worth even more is needed to get the job done.
The MH-47G is a reliable aircraft that is coveted by air forces across the world. It incorporates a monolithic, machine-framed fuselage integrating long-range fuel tanks, and an extendable refuelling probe to receive fuel mid-air from fixed-wing tankers. The helicopter also possesses advanced cargo-handling capabilities.
The helicopter can be fitted with special operations equipment such as a fast rope insertion extraction system, a special patrol insertion and extraction system, a rope ladder, an electrically powered rescue hoist and a personnel location system.
The variant also includes the Silent Knight Radar system, which provides safe low-level flight in adverse environments, including navigation support weather information to air crews.
British procurement from the US Chinooks
The UK’s procurement of Chinooks from the US has also come to standstill.
The new transport helicopters that will benefit UK special forces is now expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2028. This pushes forward the original delivery date by an extra two years.
As the pressure of demand for capability like that provided by the Chinook mounts in this decade, Boeing’s extended modernisation efforts may continually fail to catch up.
Boeing faces the problem of stretching itself as the company must meet the needs of US Special Operations Command as well as the need to replenish the UK rotary aircraft fleet.
With fleet sizes reducing as a result of the West’s campaign to support Ukraine, British and American procurers are pressuring companies to make up for the shortfall. On top of this pressure, Chinooks could be falling even further behind.