The U.S. Army continues to modernize the next-generation F-model CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter while simultaneously working to upgrade its entire fleet to F-model aircraft, service officials explained April 2, at the Army Aviation Association of America’s 2012 Professional Forum and Exposition.
Thus far, the Army has accepted delivery of 169 F-model Chinooks, cargo helicopters engineered with next-generation avionics, electronics and cockpit digital moving map displays, said Lt. Col. Brad Killen, CH-47 F-model project manager.
Ultimately, the Army plans to have a “pure” fleet of 440 F-model Chinooks by 2018, he added.
“The goal here is to go to all F’s. When you look at a D-model Chinook, it still has the steam gauges in it; whereas if you look at the F-model, it has five multi-function displays and full-motion video screens,” Killen said.
Killen explained the tremendous value-added of the Chinook F’s Common Aviation Architecture System, or CASS cockpit, which consists of multi-function digital displays providing pilots with situational and navigational information.
“With CAAS we’ve got a moving map. Now that a moving map is in front of me, I have all my instruments in front of me. It’s reduced the work load,” he said.
The F-model Chinook represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.
In fact, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Army’s first CH-47 Chinook delivery which took place in 1962, said Col. Bob Marion, program manager, cargo aircraft.
In fact, that very first A-model Chinook received by the Army was recently found to be flying missions in Afghanistan, Marion said.
“I was surprised to find out that that first A-model was in Afghanistan. It is now a D-model as we have modernized the aircraft over time. This leads me to reflect on how much the Chinook means to the Army and our nation, including all of those Soldiers who have worked on and flown in it for 50 years,” he added. “As we talk about the Future Vertical Lift and Armed Aerial Scout programs, we talk about continuing to use the Chinook as the medium and heavy lift solution to meet the Army’s needs. It is therefore important for us to keep these aircraft flying and relevant for the next generation of Army aviators.”
The Chinook program is preparing to issue its next multi-year procurement contract for the F-model aircraft by January 2013, Marion said.
As the Army continues to transition to a pure fleet of F-model Chinooks, the program office has, in the past year, stood up a special program manager tasked with pursuing additional modernization possibilities for the aircraft, Marion explained.
These efforts include the addition of new, composite rotor blades able to add 2,000-pounds of additional lift capability to the aircraft. Tthe advanced composite rotor blade effort, which has already gone through some wind-tunnel testing, is slated for flight testing in the summer of 2015, said Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl, product manager, Chinook modernization.
The Chinook program is also developing a new Cargo On/Off Loading System, or COOLS, engineered to build rollers into the floor to better expedite on and off-loading of supplies and gear, Hoecherl explained.
Having recently completed its Critical Design Review, COOLS will start fielding in February of next year, Hoecherl said.
“Right now we have a system that is not on the aircraft. We have to bring it on. What happens now when you are flying is you take off and, if you have a change of mission, you have to go pick up pallets. You can’t push pallets on this floor as it is now. With COOLS, the rolls are going to be built into the floor, so if you have a change of mission you just flip the floor up,” Killen said.
COOLS is also built with additional underneath ballistic protection systems, Hoecherl added.
The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, Hoecherl explained.
“The Cargo Platform Health Environment, or CPHE, will provide continuous monitoring of all the vibrations. It will bring diagnostics and prognostics, which will help predict what might go wrong with the aircraft. Next month we will start doing the validation for the installation of CPHE,” Hoecherl said.