U.S. Special Operations Command on July 12 awarded Boeing [BA] a $194 million contract to build a second lot of MH-47G Block II Chinooks.
The award is a modification to the contract Boeing already holds for building SOCOM versions of the heavylift helicopters. The new deal covers six renew-build and one new-build aircraft to be delivered starting in 2021, according to a Defense Department contract announcement.
“This action is required to sustain U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) heavy assault, rotary wing aircraft and to mitigate the impact of the MH-47G aircraft availability in light of increased SOF operational demands,” the announcement said. Fiscal 2019 defense-wide appropriations funding in the amount of $77.3 million and $116.8 million in fiscal 2019 Army aircraft procurement funding were obligated at the time of award. Block II Chinooks feature technological advancements to extend the fleet’s service life and enhance performance.
“The MH-47G is the world’s best, most reliable heavy-lift helicopter and will help Special Operations execute their difficult missions,” said Chuck Dabundo, vice president and MH-47 program manager. “Nearly a quarter of the Special Ops fleet is now on contract for Block II, and we look forward to delivering this capability to them on schedule.”
The Army has a large number of MH-47G Chinook helicopters. Boeing is now on contract for a total of 15 MH-47G Block II Chinooks. The first MH-47G Block II aircraft is scheduled to begin final assembly this year.
The Army initially planned to upgrade its conventional CH-47F Chinooks to Block II configurations, which adds new composite rotor blades and a beefed up drivetrain among other upgrades. In its fiscal 2020 budget request, the service included funding to continue testing the first three engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft but did not include follow-on funding in its five-year spending plan.
Concerned that canceling the program could harm Boeing’s production line and supply chain, House lawmakers are considering restoring funds to upgrade the conventional Chinooks to Block II configuration.