May 2, 2009:
Australia has joined the growing list of American allies that want CH-47F transport helicopters. 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. Australia wants to buy seven CH-47Fs, for $80 million each (that includes lots of electronics, some weapons, support and training, spare engines and other spare parts).
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, just for the bare aircraft.
The tricky aspect of this Australian sale is how soon the CH-47Fs can be delivered. There is a backlog, and the U.S. Army will be under pressure to get the Australians (who have been capable and steadfast allies for nearly a century) theirs as soon as possible.