The February 2007 Dutch CH-47F Chinook Deal, Explained
Back in October 2006, “Dutch Looking to Field 20 CH-47F Chinooks for $652M” covered a mixed new-build and upgrade order to expand their Chinook heavy-lift helicopter fleet. Recent Boeing and MvD releases and Dutch news reports, however, have referred to only 6 new-build CH-47Fs and associated spares and support. Cost? EUR 389.5 million (currently about $509 million).
Why the discrepancy? What’s going on? And how do these aircraft differ from the CH-47Fs the USA is ordering? DID has explanations, with help from Dutch Parliamentary documents and translation/ background provided by our readers…
The Recent Contract: Details
On February 2, 2007, thea Dutch MvD/MINDEF release stated their intention to acquire 6 CH-47F helicopters, including all avionics, Honeywell T55-L-714A turbine engines, et. al. A subsequent February 15, 2007 Boeing release confirmed those numbers.
Two of the new CH-47Fs are meant 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). The RNLAF Chinook fleet serves with 298 Squadron based at Soesterberg Air Force Base
Their new CH-47F (NL) helicopters will have have “special forces preparations,” an ambiguous term that could simply refer to some of the CH-47F’s standard systems derived from US SOCOM experience. An integrated forward-looking infrared capability is definitely included, and a Luchtvaartniews report translated by VNC Communication Consultants adds that weather radar, ice detectors, unspecified defensive systems, abseil equipment, and long-distance communications are included as well.
Many of those systems are standard for the CH-47F, or constitute minor additions. One major difference in the CH-47F (NL) will be the cockpits. Dutch CH-47Fs will use Honeywell’s Avionics Control and Management System (ACMS) block 6 cockpit avionics suite, rather than Honeywell’s newest CAAS standard for the USA’s SOCOM helicopters and CH-47Fs, because ACMS is easier for them to integrate and operate. As part of the CH-47F contract, therefore the Dutch will deliver equipment to Boeing worth EUR 11 million (currently about $14.3 million) as Government Furnished Equipment.
At present, the Dutch CH-47D Chinooks use ACMS block 5 cockpits; there was no word on ACMS modernizations for the other 11 aircraft.
This January 30, 2007 Parliamentary document states that the 6 helicopters will be available by 2009, and that the Production Preparation Agreement will run until February 16, 2007.
An additional 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 narrows those dates, citing 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.
Thanks to DID readers David Vandenberghe and VHJM van Neerven for the tips and pointers.
Why Just 6 CH-47s? A Political Briefing
Reader David V. writes:
“The Ministry of Defense Press releases (dates back to 2 february 2006…) nor the documents mentions anything about upgrading Chinooks or acquiring additional engines. It simply states that 6 CH-47Fs with the ACMS block 6 cockpit are to be purchased (brand new), 2 of the CH-47F are to replace previously lost Chinooks whilst the other 4 augment the fleet and will bring it up to a total of 17 Chinooks. I checked De Telegraaf and Het Financieele dagblad (both commercial newspapers), the latter mentions that the Second Chamber of Parliament still has to approve the acquisition which probably explains everything.
The Mindef article states that the acquisition was decided by the resigning cabinet (“Het demissionaire kabinet heeft dat vandaag besloten”). The Dutch governmental coalition fell in December 2006 and a new one is about to be formed after coalition talks resulted in a agreement between political parties to form a new government.
One of the problems with the Balkenende III (CDA and VVD parties) government was that it did not have control over the Second Parliamentary Chamber. As you can see here, this is how the seats are divided in the Second Chamber (its Wikipedia, but its correct).
On 12 December 2006 this chamber passed a motion which initiated amnesty for illegal immigrants (aliens) which Minister Rita Verdonk (Minister of Migration and integration) refused to apply, thus leading to a crisis and the fall of the Balkenende III Cabinet/Government formed by CDA and VVD. Balkenende IV is about to be formed.
If one combines the dots it probably explains why the contract only handles 6 CH-47F and not the remainder. A resigning government will usually only handle contracts previously set in motion, but this one has to cope with the Second Chamber which needs to give the green light. Although it has not been stated explicitely [sic], I think it would be correct to say that the Chinook contract was lightened a bit so that in all likelyhood it could pass the Second Chamber, upgrades can wait. As I said, a new government is about to be formed we shall have to wait and see if the upgrade will then be initiated by the Balkenende IV government.”