How effective are the Chinook helicopters

Heavy transport helicopter - Boeing expands its STH industrial team

Boeing announced today that it has expanded the German Boeing industrial team for the Bundeswehr's heavy transport helicopter (STH) and that corresponding cooperation agreements have been signed with the new partners. Honeywell Aerospace Engineering and Rolls-Royce Germany are joining the Boeing STH team as new partners.

Honeywell is the manufacturer of the T55-L-714 engine that powers the CH-47 Chinook. It develops up to 5,069 hp. More than 6,000 T55s have been produced so far and over 2 million flight hours have been completed. The T55-L-714 is the latest version that is in series production. Honeywell has licensed Rolls-Royce Germany for the maintenance and repair work on this engine. Rolls-Royce will therefore be able to carry out all maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) work in Germany. In addition to the MRO service, Rolls-Royce Germany will also provide the logistical supply chain (spare parts) and location optimization for the German armed forces.

Rolls-Royce Germany has been Honeywell's cooperation partner for other engines for many decades, including for the German Armed Forces and the Coast Guard. The work for the T55-L-714 can be carried out at the Rolls-Royce locations in Oberursel or Dahlewitz. Corresponding investigations are still ongoing. Both locations are expected to be involved in the work. With a contract for the CH-47 Chinook, investments in the two locations would also be necessary.

Should both locations then have 100 percent of the MRO capacities, other NATO partners in Europe could also benefit and have their work carried out in Germany.

Boeing itself states that it already has around 1,000 employees at eleven locations in Germany. There are also two development and research facilities in Munich and Neu-Isenburg.

STH competition

The race in the competition for the heavy transport helicopter of the Bundeswehr is still open according to current knowledge, a selection decision is not expected until the second quarter of 2021. With the STH, the Bundeswehr is looking for a successor to the aging CH-53GS / GE / GA transport helicopter fleet. There are only two candidates for the STH, the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion. Depending on the model, the Bundeswehr plans to procure 44 to 60 helicopters.

Boeing CH-47 Chinook offer

Boeing is taking part in the STH competition with the CH-47 Chinook, more precisely with a version of the helicopter modified according to German customer requirements, which is similar to the CH-147F of the Canadian armed forces, which in turn is based on the CH-47 Extended Range (ER) variant of the Chinook based. The biggest difference, besides the already mentioned Germanization, is the installation of the air-to-air refueling capability (refueling probe), this capability is otherwise only available in the MH-47G machines of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in place. The German machines would have the ability to refuel in the air, in which the fuel nozzle only has to be carried when necessary. This has the advantage that the weight and the aerodynamic disadvantages of the tank nozzle only affect the helicopter when this ability is actually required. If an in-flight refueling mission is necessary, it can be scaffolded quickly and easily.

The ER version of the Chinook has a range of 1,000 km and a service ceiling of 6,100 m. The aircraft, which is equipped with CAAS (Common Avionics Architecture System from Rockwell Collins) and DAFCS (Digital Automatic Flight Control System), was specifically designed for both conventional transport tasks, Carry out SAR missions as well as missions to support the special forces. This also corresponds to the German requirements.

The strengths of the CH-47F lie primarily in its technical maturity (low development risk), its market availability (currently still ongoing production in large numbers) and the range without air refueling (only the ER). Boeing always emphasizes that the CH-47 is the only helicopter of this size that is ready, immediately available and “combat proven”. According to Boeing, the CH-47 is also a very cost-effective machine, with an hourly flight costing around US $ 8,000 to US $ 9,000. Further advantages are the still long usage horizon - the U.S. Army has stated that it wants to use the machines until at least 2060 - and the great potential for multinational cooperation. Many NATO allies and neighbors are already using variants of this model, including the USA, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. France is initially planning to lease some machines in order to gain experience and then, if necessary, to make a purchase decision. This type is used by 20 nations worldwide.

More than 950 machines of the CH-47 have been delivered so far, Boeing is currently producing three to four machines a month in Philadelphia and, according to its own statements, this for several years.

André Forkert