The U.S. Army is set to award Boeing [BA] the first contract for low-rate production of the CH-47 Chinook Block II upgrade program.

In a presolicitation posted Jan. 10 on the U.S. government’s contracting website, the Army says it plans to award an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for between four and 14 CH-47 Block II “renew aircraft,” which are existing CH-47Fs that will be enhanced by Boeing. Work under the contract will run from fiscal 2021 to 2022.

National Guard CH-47F in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo by Dan Parsons

The fixed-price incentive firm IDIQ contract will have two ordering periods with a minimum of four aircraft and as many as seven in each period. Included in the second ordering period are contract line item numbers (CLINS) for over and above, and initial spare parts in support of both periods.

Boeing has three engineering and manufacturing development Block II aircraft in final assembly at its manufacturing facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. First flight of an EMD aircraft is scheduled sometime in first quarter 2019.

The program achieved milestone B in April 2017 and Boeing is now producing the evolutionary upgrade package for the U.S. Army and Special Operations Forces under a $276 million contract awarded in 2017.

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

Block II was designed to achieve specific performance enhancement metrics, including a 22,000 pound payload and high/hot hover performance at 4,000 ft on a 95-degree day. Maximum takeoff weight is boosted to 54,000 pounds with the goal of carrying a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

Included in the upgrade package are improved avionics, speed enhancements and a beefier drivetrain that will 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.

“This requirement also sets the structural and dynamic basis for future spiral development of the CH-47F Block II variant while enhancing structural and system commonality with the MH-47G aircraft,” according to the Jan. 10 notice.

First delivery of a production Block II Chinook to the Army is expected in 2023. The Army plans to eventually upgrade more than 500 Chinooks — its entire fleet of CH-47Fs — to the Block II configuration. The Army is still in the process of updating all of its Chinooks to the F-model configuration. Boeing will bring in an estimated $14 billion and change to bring the Army’s entire fleet to F-model configuration.