Air Transportation: You Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends


April 14, 2010:  The U.S. Army's new CH-47F helicopter is in such demand that the army is under a lot of pressure to give up places in the production queue, so that allies can get a few of the ones they have ordered, and desperately need, more quickly. This puts the army on the spot, because these allies need the CH-47Fs for Afghanistan, where the United States gets more help from armed allies than it did in Iraq. So the army brass are all over the manufacturer to speed up production, anyway they can. The army has ordered 453 CH-47Fs, and only about 20 percent have been delivered. In Afghanistan, the CH-47Fs have been impressive, often flying eight missions a day, day after day. The CH-47Fs have had a 90 percent availability rate. The CH-47F has been flying since 2001, and were first delivered to the army nearly two years ago. Deliveries to American combat units only began in the last year. But now Britain, Canada and Australia, all with combat troops in Afghanistan, are seeking deliveries as quickly as possible. It's hard to say no.

The 22 ton CH-47F can carry ten tons of cargo, or up to 55 troops, and has a maximum range of 426 kilometers. Its max speed is 315 kilometers an hour. Typical missions last no more than three hours. It is the best helicopter for use in Afghanistan, having proved itself able to deal with the dust and high altitude operations better than other transport choppers.

The first CH-47s entered service in 1962, able to carry only five tons. Some 750 saw service in Vietnam, and 200 were lost in action. Between 1982-94, 500 CH-47s were rebuilt to the CH-47D standard. SOCOM operates 31 MH-47Ds and Es, which have additional navigation gear. These are being upgraded to MH-47F standards, and the fleet expanded to 61 helicopters. As a result of all this, the CH-47 will end up serving at least 75 years. The CH-47F upgrades and new builds will not be completed until 2018. New CH-47Fs cost about $35 million each.





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