Air Transportation: Where the Sand-Proof Choppers Thrive

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November 26, 2019: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has ordered another ten U.S. made CH-47F helicopters. This sale includes spare engines, weapons, additional electronics and maintenance contracts bringing the total cost to $830 million. These will join 19 CH-47s the UAE already has. The UAE first obtained CH-47s in 2003 when they bought twelve used CH-47Cs from Libya. These 1970s era helicopters were soon upgraded to the CH-47D standard. In 2009 the UAE ordered 16 CH-47Fs and as of now not all have been delivered. The first of these didn’t arrive until 2012 because there are so many back orders to be filled. The CH-47, based on decades of dependable service, and successful recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been much in demand since 2002 and the waiting lists are growing longer.

Currently, the most widely used model is still the 22 ton CH-47D, which can carry ten tons of cargo, or up to 55 passengers (normally just 33 troops), and has a maximum range of 426 kilometers. Its max speed is 315 kilometers an hour and can cruise at 234. Typical missions last about three hours.

The CH-47 is the best helicopter for use in Afghanistan, and desert areas, 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 as well.

The first CH-47s entered service in 1962 and were able to carry only five tons. Some 750 saw service in Vietnam, and 200 were lost in action. Between 1982 and 1994, 500 CH-47s were rebuilt to the CH-47D standard. SOCOM operates 71 MH-47Ds and Es (which have additional navigation gear.) These are being upgraded to MH-47F standards as 47Gs. 

Currently, the latest model is the CH-47F which began deliveries in 2004. The U.S. Army recently completed upgrading 397 CH-47Ds to the F standard and many other CH-47D users are doing this as well. There are currently about 1,200 CH-47s in service and soon the F model will be the most common.

There are further F model upgrades being developed, with the first one to be available in 2020 and another one by 2025. That means CH-47s will still be at work in the 2060s, The CH-47 will end up serving at about 100 years. 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. The D and F models have similar operating characteristics. The later CH-47F models will increase range and reliability and use more powerful engines.

CH-47s are particularly popular in the Middle East and North Africa because this helicopter has, over several decades of use in desert environments, developed a great tolerance for desert conditions.

 


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