Air Transportation: Chinook Shortage Grows


November 6, 2009: Morocco is buying three American CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters. Three months ago, Egypt ordered six of them. With maintenance, spares and training, the cost per helicopters is about $50 million. The CH-47, based on decades of dependable service, and successful recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now much in demand. Waiting lists are growing longer.

The 22 ton CH-47D 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 about three hours. Egypt got 15 older CH-47Cs in the 1980s, and is in the process of upgrading them to CH-47Ds.

The CH-47 is the best helicopter for use in Afghanistan, and desert area, having proved itself able to deal with the dust and high altitude operations better than other transport choppers. Lots of fine dust has proved troublesome for gas turbines used in helicopters and ground vehicles. But the CH-47 has been engineered, over the years, to deal with the dust.

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 CH-47F is more durable and easier to maintain than the CH-47D, and most D models will be upgraded to the F standard.


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