Australia Upgrading its CH-47D Heavy Heli Fleet
After decades as a largely unheralded workhorse, the distinctive, twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook medium-heavy lift helicopter has suddenly become the belle of the ball. Nations that have them are keeping them, and upgrading them. Boeing’s main customers in the US military plan to keep versions of the CH-47 in service past 2030. Nations that don’t have Chinooks, want them; but like a Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Fat Boy, those who step up to buy one know that second hand models aren’t exactly plentiful – and if you want new, you’ll probably have to wait a bit.
Australia has ordered CH-47Fs, but in the mean time, the 6 CH-47Ds in 5th Aviation Regiment, C Squadron have received defensive upgrades, lost a helicopter in Afghanistan, and rose to 7 machines under a new deal.
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The new CH-47Ds will be used for training and operational support programs, while the rest of the fleet offers Australia strong performance in Afghanistan’s hot and high-altitude environment.
Jun 22/12: Crash. A RAAF CH-47D experiences a hard landing in Kandahar province. The incident remains under investigation, as it doesn’t appear to be the result of enemy fire.
The damage done may keep that Chinook out of service through the end of July 2012, when the RAAF’s CH-47Ds are due to complete operations, and the government is considering shipping it back to Australia for repairs. Source.
April 25/12: Rotor brakes. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $9.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, to add a rotor brake system on Australian Defense Force CH-47Ds. Rotor brakes do exactly what the name implies, allowing for fast stops of spinning rotors. That’s helpful in windy conditions, where you want to minimize dust disturbance, or in cases where you want to keep the blade tips from dropping down and presenting a whirling hazard on shutdown.
Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by Australia’s contracting agent, U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).
Dec 12/11: 2 more. The Australian government announces that the DoD has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance with the United States for 2 more CH-47D helicopters. They’re expected to arrive in Townsville by the end of January 2012 from US Army stocks, and will be modified to Australia’s CH-47D configuration with appropriate communications systems, etc.
They’re expected to be “ready for domestic operations” by mid-2012. The DoD says that their main purpose will be to relieve training and maintenance pressure on the existing fleet of 5 helicopters, whose defensive upgrade allow them to be deployed. At the moment, the RAAF has 2 Chinooks deployed.
Australia’s current plans involve replacing the 7 CH-47Ds with 7 CH-47Fs by 2016, but demands on the force may yet push them to either keep the D models in service longer, or send them for CH-47F upgrades.
May 25/11: Crash. A RAAF CH-47D is lost in Afghanistan, during operations. It crashes 90 km west of Tarin Kowt, catches fire, and kills 1 Australian. Lieutenant Marcus Sean Case was a helicopter pilot, but he was a passenger on this flight. Australia’s Telegraph.
Nov 30/05: Upgrades. Canada is regretting its decision to sell its Chinooks to The Netherlands during the “peace dividend” 1990s, but Australia sensibly kept its Chinooks around – and they may also have a larger force in Afghanistan soon. Now their 6 machines are about to undergo a $25 million upgrade to fit them with electronic countermeasures protection (which could include systems like the AN/ALQ-211 SIRFC, the M211 AIRCMM IR protection system, exhaust suppressors, etc.), improved ballistic protection, and advanced communications.
Defence Minister Robert Hill said the Government has agreed to the upgrade as part of a rapid acquisition tender process with Australian industry and foreign equipment suppliers. “This upgrade will ensure they are equipped with the necessary protection and latest technology to be safely deployed in any future high threat security environment.” Australian DoD.