Boeing [BA] plans to conduct a flight demonstration with a CH-47D Chinook in the “next couple years” to see whether its heavy-lift helicopter could someday accommodate a new, more fuel-efficient and more powerful engine, a company official said Oct. 9.
The “proof of concept” test, which Boeing is pursuing under a cooperative research and development agreement with General Electric [GE] and the U.S. Army, will use the new T408 engine, which GE is building for the Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president of cargo helicopter programs. The Army’s twin-engine Chinooks are currently powered by the Honeywell [HON] T55.
Dabundo and Col. Greg Fortier, the Army’s cargo project manager, emphasized to reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., that the Army does not have a requirement for a new engine and that the Army is focused on upgrading its CH-47Fs to the Block II configuration.
Block II includes an improved drivetrain, new rotor blades, a streamlined fuel-tank design and a strengthening of the fuselage structure, all to increase the helicopter’s lifting power.
Boeing has taken apart the first of three Chinooks that will be remanufactured into test aircraft for the Block II upgrade effort. Block II flight tests are slated to begin in the summer of 2019 in Mesa, Ariz., and last about two years.
Also during the press briefing, Dabundo said the first of 15 CH-47s ordered by India will begin undergoing final assembly in Philadelphia this week. India is one of 20 foreign customers for the Chinook, and “we’re looking to grow that number in the next couple years,” said Randy Rotte, Boeing director of global sales and marketing for cargo.