Boeing has flown a Block 2-standard CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter for the first time with the Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB), the company announced on 16 January.
The flight came some 10 months after the first Block 2 helicopter made its maiden flight with standard rotor blades. No details on the ACRB test were provided by Boeing, beyond the fact that they will add 771 kg in lift-capacity to the helicopter (previously, the company had noted a 680 kg increase at 4,000 ft and 35°C in the hover - the army's 4K/95 performance benchmark).
The ACRB is part of a wider Block 2 enhancement for the Chinook that is geared towards restoring lift-capacity that over the years has been lost with the addition of more mission equipment. Besides the new blades which feature advanced geometry and a new asymmetric aerofoil, Block 2 includes a new drive system to accommodate the higher torque levels; a single-segment fuel tank in each side sponson, compared with the three now; electrical system enhancements; and some other unspecified improvements. Block 2 will also open the door to an improved engine for the Chinook, via the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) programme.
Boeing has previously described the Block 2 enhancement to Jane's as "a three-legged stool" that comprises the current engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, equipping the MH-47G special mission Chinook, and equipping the standard CH-47F.
With only the EMD phase currently under contract, the US Army has recently said that it might divert funding away from the larger effort towards its Future Vertical-Lift (FVL) effort. Randy Rotte, director of cargo helicopters, global sales, and marketing, said that the Milestone C (full-rate production approval) decision, which is expected in 2021, will be "a key moment" for the Block 2 programme as that is when the army will have to make its decision on whether to proceed or not.
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