Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks
In December 2005, Australia decided to upgrade its CH-47D Chinook fleet, in preparation for use on the front lines. Afghanistan’s high altitudes and sometimes-scorching temperatures reduce rotor lift. That made the Chinooks a far better choice than upgrading the ADF’s S-70 Black Hawk helicopters, whose reduced carrying capacity would limit their tactical uses. Those CH-47D Chinooks have gone on to play an important role in Afghanistan, amidst a general shortage of useful helicopters. Now, Australia seems determined to supplement its older CH-47D fleet with new and improved CH-47F models, which feature more modern electronics, uprated engines, and numerous other improvements.
The question was when the DSCA request would become an actual contract. That question has just been answered.
Contracts and Key Events
Jan 5/12: Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a $370 million firm-fixed-price contract to “provide for the services in support of the bridge requirement for new CH-47 F model aircraft to support foreign military sales.” The English translation, based on responses to our inquiries, is that Australia and the UAE are buying 14 CH-47Fs (7/7 RAAF, 7/16 UAE) under the US Army contract, in order to benefit from its volume pricing.
Other CH-47F customers like Britain and Canada, who ordered heavily customized versions, can’t take advantage of that. Neither can Italy, who will produce the machines in-country under an agreement between Boeing and AgustaWestland.
Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale clients (W58RGZ-12-C-0010).
May 20/10: Contract. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) signs a contract with the US Army Security Assistance Command, at the Australian Embassy in Washington. The AUD$ 513.5 million (about $470 million) contract will buy 7 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, 2 Simulators, and associated spares. The first 2 aircraft are planned to enter service in 2014, with all 7 in service by 2017.
With respect to standardization, the helicopters will be delivered in American configuration. Greg Combet, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, says that:
“Australian industry will have the opportunity to incorporate the Australian specific enhancements and to support the new helicopters as part of through-life support arrangements.”
Feb 25/10: The Australian Government gives second pass approval to “Project AIR 9000 Phase 5C” for 7 CH-47Fs, at a budget of AUD $755 million. This approves the plan’s details, but is not itself a contract. Australia expects to field the first 2 helicopters in 2014, with all 7 expected by 2017. The ministerial statement makes it clear that the 7 CH-47Fs would replace 5th Aviation Regiment, C squadron’s existing 6 CH-47Ds, would also be based in Townsville, and would be expected to serve until 2040.
Per the recommendations of past commissions like Australia’s famous Kinnaird Review, Senator Faulkner said the new aircraft will be procured and maintained in the same broad configuration as the United States Army CH-47Fs. Australia also promised to consider joining the USA’s Chinook Product Improvement Program as a way to keep those configurations aligned, “when information on this program is of second pass quality.” Having said all that, however, “The new Australian Chinooks will also receive some additional ADF-specific equipment to meet certain operational and safety requirements.”
July 1/09: Shephard Group reports that Australia may not place a contract order for the new CH-47Fs until 2012, and doesn’t expect to field them before 2016-2018. In the interim, Australia hopes to issue maintenance support tenders for its 6 existing CH-47Ds.
The original acquisition plan, approved by the Liberal Party government, would have bought 3 new-build CH-47Fs, and remanufactured existing CH-47Ds to CH-47F configuration. The new Defence Capability Plan, issued this day, revises the timeline and is silent on the balance between new and remanufactured aircraft.
April 13/09: The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Australia’s official request for 7 CH-47F CHINOOK Helicopters with 14 (2 per aircraft) T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 7 Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm Miniguns, 16 AN/ARC-201D Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS), 7 Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Trackers (FBCB2/BFT), 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, plus mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $560 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract.
The prime contractors will be: Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis, MO (helicopters); Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA (engines); and ITT in Fort Wayne, IN (radios). Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 2 contractor representatives to Australia for approximately 3 years, with about 6 U.S. Government personnel participating in program management and/or technical reviews in-country for 1-2 week intervals annually.