Chinooks for the Dutch: The CH-47F (NL) Heavy-Lift Helicopter
On Sept 27/06, the US DSCA (Defense Security Cooperation Agency) notified Congress of the Netherlands’ request for up to 9 of the newest CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters in a country-specific CH-47F (NL) variant, complete with ACMS Block 6 cockpits and 18 T55-L-714A turbine engines. The Dutch were also looking to upgrade their 11 existing CH-47D Chinook Cargo Helicopters to the newer CH-47F configuration. If all options were exercised, the DSCA notification placed the contracts’ values at up to $652 million.
Early procurements are going to be a bit more modest, but at least the helicopters have finally begun to arrive, about 6 years later.
One major difference in the multi-role CH-47F(NL) compared to the US Army Ch-47F will be the cockpits. Dutch CH-47Fs will use Honeywell’s Avionics Control and Management System (ACMS) Block-6 cockpit avionics suite, rather than Rockwell Collins newly developed CAAS standard for the USA’s Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters. At present, the Dutch CH-47D Chinooks use ACMS Block-5 cockpits, which have proven themselves in Dutch service on national and international missions. The ACMS Block-6 will be easier for the Dutch to integrate and operate than a new system like CAAS. From a European point of view, it’s also significant that ACMS is also in process to fulfill European airspace requirements via certification against European Civilian/Military Air Regulations.
The current ACMS Block-5 simulator, operated by CAE Benson, will be adapted to host also the ACMS Block-6 training.
Other equipment in the CH-47F(NL) will include an array of gear that will make the new helicopters well suited to special operations roles:
- Robertson Extended Range Fuel System (ERFS)
- Pall Engine Air Particle Separators (EAPS) for harsh or dusty environments
- Integrated Wescam MX-15HDi Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) turret with laser illuminator
- Terma (CHASE) and Northrop Grumman (AAR-54 RWR) Air Defense Systems
- Hoist and fast roping capabilities
- FN Herstal’s M3M .50 cal/ 12.7mm machine guns.
- Provisions for a Permali/Plasan ballistic protection system
- Simula crashworthy cockpit crew seats.
- Secure communications suite including Satcom, HF, UHF and VHF radios
- Weather radar and Digital maps to improve navigation, integrated with ACMS
- Digital AFCS to improve flight control capabilities
There are also some hardware provisions for a future upgrade like a Helmet Mounted Display. All systems are being integrated in the helicopter during production at the Boeing facility.
At present, the Dutch have ordered 6 CH-47F (NL) helicopters.
Meanwhile, they have deployed some of their CH-47Ds to Afghanistan as part of ISAF’s mission in the southern Afghan provinces, and this was cited in the 2006 DSCA request as part of the rationale for the sale/upgrade.
As an aside, Canada, who had sold the Netherlands some of their current CH-47D fleet, were also seeking to acquire CH-47s for use by its ISAF contingent, but could not place a timely order, or secure helicopters in time. They remained dependent on Dutch, British, and American assistance until an emergency buy of 6 US Army CH-47Ds gave them their own machines.
A standardization program to upgrade the current 11 Dutch CH-47Ds to the CH-47F configuration has been postponed, and may occur in 2014-2018. The contract hasn’t been signed yet, and budget cuts could make it a casualty.
Contracts & Key Events
Oct 8/12: The Dutch Armed Forces receives their first 2 CH-47F-NLs, growing their CH-47 fleet to 13 (11 Ds, 2 Fs). The delivery is significantly later than the original date of 2009.
For training purposes, the Luchtmachthanden has stationed 3 training CH-47Ds in Fort Hood, TX, and local training at the School of the Air-Ground Cooperation in Schaarsbergen, including a 10m fixed drop to practice ropedowns. Dutch MvD [in Dutch].
Sept 19/11: Boeing and AAR Aircraft Component Services – Amsterdam announce a letter of intent to cooperate on component maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capabilities to support Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) CH-47 Chinook and AH-64D Apache helicopters, in partnership with the Netherlands Ministry of Defence Logistic Center Woensdrecht (LCW).
The partnership aims to increase readiness rates of the RNLAF’s Boeing-built CH-47 Chinook and AH-64D Apache helicopters, and aims to eventually broaden regional MRO activities under the “Maintenance Valley” initiative to bolster the Netherlands’ position as a regional hub for military and civilian aircraft MRO activities. Boeing.
Dec 8/10: 1st flight of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) CH-47F (NL) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The new version is scheduled to complete its flight test program in August 2011, after approximately 100 flight hours. There are 2 aircraft in flight test as of January 2011, of the order for 6.
The CH-47F-NLs will join an existing fleet of 11 CH-47Ds. Had deliveries been made on schedule, the Dutch would have become the 1st international customer to field an F model variant. Boeing’s Jan 25/11 release.
Oct 28/09: Luchtvaartnieuws reports [in Dutch] that the Dutch CH-47Fs will be delayed by about 6 more months to the end of 2010, due in part to software issues.
The practical consequence? If the Dutch decide not to stay in Afghanistan past 2011, the CH-47Fs may not be deployed there.
Sept 11/09: Luchtvaartnieuws reports [in Dutch] that RNLAF leadership is concerned over their helicopter readiness rates. All types are of concern: the Cougar/ Super Puma transport helicopters (17), Chinooks (11) and Apache attack helicopter (21 + 8 at Fort Hood, USA).
May 14/08: MWS. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that their AAR-54 Missile Warning System (MWS) has been picked for the RNLAF’s CH-47F Chinook helicopters:
“Under the terms of the multi-million dollar contract, Northrop Grumman’s Defensive Systems Division will provide eight MWS shipsets and spares, in addition to follow-on support, to the RNLAF beginning in Jan. 2009 and continuing through January 2010.”
Feb 15/07: Boeing announces the signing of a contract for the 6 aircraft. News reports in the Netherlands cite the contract’s value at EUR 389.5 million (currently about $509 million), and Boeing’s release places the delivery dates at July 2009 – January 2010. In the end, however, the first deliveries don’t take place until late 2012.
There is also an option in this contract for another 3 aircraft, which would bring the total under this contract to 9, and the Dutch CH-47 fleet to 20, if it is exercised.
Contract for 6
Feb 02/07: In a series of releases and reports, the Dutch MvD/MINDEF states their intention to acquire 6 CH-47F helicopters, with the ACMS block 6 cockpit avionics instead of the newest CAAS standard, along with support and ancillary equipment. To that end, the Dutch will deliver equipment to Boeing worth EUR 11 million (currently about $14.3 million) as Government Furnished Equipment. The helicopters are also to have “special forces preparations.”
Two of the new CH-47Fs are intended to replace previously lost Chinooks, whilst the other 4 augment the fleet and bring it up to a total of 17 CH-47s (all versions). See Dutch language sources: MvD Public release | Submission to Parliament [PDF].
Jan 30-31/07: A Dutch Parliamentary document states that the 6 helicopters will be available by 2009, and that the Production Preparation Agreement will run until Feb 16/07. An MvD document submitted to Parliament on January 31, 2007 [PDF format] clarifies several details, noting that the “PPA” makes sure the Chinooks CH-47F will be delivered by 2009. Boeing’s release will cite a delivery period of July 2009 – January 2010.
Almost EUR 20 million has been paid for the PPA, and there is a EUR 17.5 million project reserve. The remainder of the EUR 389.5 million will be paid between 2007-2010 and is supposed to be financed by profits from “sales of surplus material” like Dutch F-16s, some MLRS rocket launchers, et. al.
Additional operating costs related to the CH-47F are estimated at EUR 3.6 million per year for the 4 extra Chinooks above the 2 “loss replacement” aircraft. This has to be budgeted, and about 58 people will be hired at an annual cost of EUR 2.9 million to do the work. The selection for the ACMS block 6 cockpit will also require further training and conversion.
Sept 27/06: DSCA request [PDF] for up to 9 CH-47F helicopters, noted above.
The contract will also include ground support equipment, special tools and test equipment, management support, modification kits, support equipment, spare and repair parts, supply support, training, publications and technical data, U.S. Government Quality Assurance Team, United States Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support.
The principal contractors in this sale will be The Boeing Company of Ridley Park, PA (CH-47 OEM) and Honeywell, Incorporated of Phoenix, AZ (T55 engines). The Dutch intend to negotiate an industrial offset agreement, but it was not announced in the DSCA release.
Implementation of this sale will potentially require the assignment of 2 U.S. Contractor Field Service Representatives to the Netherlands for up to 3 years. A team of contractors will be also required to provide technical assistance during the upgrade of the aircraft, and up to 6 U.S. Government representatives will travel to the Netherlands for 8 trips to participate in program support and technical reviews.
- DID FOCUS – Boeing in Flight on Production of (Re)New H-47 Chinooks. The CH-47F and MH-47G.
- DID (Feb 21/07) – The February 2007 Dutch CH-47F Chinook Deal, Explained. Covers the order changes, and political background.
Thanks to DID readers David Vandenberghe and VHJM van Neerven for their tips and pointers, and to the Dutch MvD for its cooperation.