Boeing is to begin development of a Block 3-standard Boeing CH/MH-47 Chinook transport and assault helicopter toward the end of the 2020s, ahead of fielding by the US Army in the late 2030s/early 2040s.
The timeline was disclosed by the army’s MH-47G programme manager, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Klarenbach, in a briefing presented earlier in 2018 and seen by Jane’s on 1 August. According to the briefing, Block 3 technology development for both the CH-47F and MH-47G will run from about 2027 to 2040, with production immediately following.
With Boeing currently engaged in the early stages of the Block 2 upgrade for the US Army’s Chinook fleet (the first of three prototypes is now in final assembly, ahead of the first low-rate initial production delivery in fiscal year 2023), in May 2017 the company first touted the notion of a Block 3 upgrade to take the Chinook out to the 2060s.
No details as to what a Block 3 upgrade might include were released, but Boeing at that time noted it could feature the new Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE), which is being provisioned for inclusion in Block 2, as well as active parallel actuator systems and torque management systems. It could also see the Chinook become optionally-piloted. “[Optionally piloted] is not a huge technology challenge with the flights controls the Chinook has – it is more a tactics, techniques, and procedures [TTP] challenge,” said Randy Rotte, Boeing's director of cargo helicopter sales and marketing. “Unlike the [US Marine Corps’] K-MAX, which carried its cargo sling-loaded, someone would need to get inside [of the unmanned Chinook] to load and unload it.”
While the US Army has yet to comment on what a Block 3 Chinook might entail, Col Klarenbach’s briefing slides showed two possible configurations.
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