A Boeing CH-47F
(Photo: U.S. Army)

U.S. Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy said on Wednesday that the Army will buy 10 percent fewer Boeing [BA] CH-47F Block II upgrades than planned to fund top modernization priorities, such as Long-Range Precision Fires, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) and the Next Generation Combat Vehicle.

“We went through and did a thorough exercise on the aviation portfolio, and we have 10 percent more Chinooks today than we need so we continue through the buy on the FY 2020 for the conventional force, but we’re only buying SOCOM [MH-47G] Chinooks in the out years,” McCarthy said at the McAleese annual budget conference. “We’re really going to make a go of it for FVL across the this FYDP and bring these new assets online.”

The Army has budgeted $790 million in FY 2020 for research and development for FVL.

Over the Future Years Defense Plan, the planned decrease for the CH-47 program will be $932 million, and the Army plans to redirect much of that funding to top procurement priorities as those programs move from prototypes to production in FY 2023 and FY 2024, Army officials said.

The Army had planned to upgrade 542 Chinooks to Block II configuration–its entire fleet, including 473 planned CH-47F and 69 MH-47G Special Operations variants.

Boeing said that the decision, if implemented, would decrease Army readiness.

“Delaying CH-47F Block II production funding would have significant detrimental impacts for fleet readiness, the defense industrial base, and tax payers, and hamper soldiers’ abilities to carry critical payloads,” Chuck Dabundo, the Boeing H-47 program manager and the vice president of cargo helicopters for Boeing, told Defense Daily.

Boeing said that CH-47F Block IIs are able to lift Army heavy equipment that no other Army aircraft is able to carry, including the new Oshkosh Defense® [OSK] armored Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and the BAE Systems M777 Extended-Range howitzer.

A major component of the Block II upgrades is the advanced Chinook rotor blade (ACRB), designed to provide more than the Army-required 1,500 pounds of lift at 4,000 feet elevation in 95-degree temperatures. Boeing has demonstrated at least 1,600 pounds of additional lift with its new composite blades.

Included in the upgrade package are improved avionics, speed enhancements and a heftier drive train to transfer greater power from the 20 percent more powerful Honeywell [HON] T55 engines to all new, swept-tip advanced Chinook rotor blades. Without any other upgrades, the blades are designed to provide an additional 1,500 pounds of lift.

The CH-47F Block I already has Boeing’s digital automatic flight control system, which aids pilots in making safe landings during brownout conditions, and the CH-47F Block IIs are to feature BAE Systems’ active parallel actuator subsystem, which is to provide pilots with tactile cues to inform the pilot of potential performance limitations and help reduce pilot workload.