The ultimate heavy-lift tandem-rotor helicopter, the Chinook delivers military support, a powerful assault capability and can even act as a flying hospital, providing aid to those in need
Explore the international service history of this formidable heavy-lift helicopter
Initially designed and built by Boeing Vertol in the early 1960s, the CH-47 Chinook is now manufactured by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems at their recently modernised Ridley Park facility near Philadelphia. The CH-47A first entered service with the United States Army on 16 August 1962. Due to the outbreak of the Vietnam War in 1965, the Chinook entered into a baptism of fire on the front line and was heavily utilised, providing a heavy-lift capability. For a short time it also operated as a gunship.
The lack of a tail rotor permits nearly 100 per cent power to be used for lift, making it ideal for aircraft recovery missions, salvaging many damaged airframes. This recovery effort returned thousands of aircraft to service through regeneration programs and saved the USA billions of dollars. In total 349 CH-47AS were built, but many of these suffered damage and 79 were lost during Vietnam.
The need for higher performance saw the CH-47B/C quickly designed and introduced.
The CH-47B had Allied Signal Engines T55L-7C – rated at 2850shp (2,130kw) – installed, and improvements to the fuselage were also introduced. The C model had larger capacity fuel tanks and an uprated transmission system. CH-47A/B/C models all served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1973. By the 1970s, the Chinook received global interest and worldwide sales started.
After the Vietnam War, Boeing and the US Army began planning a major
fleet upgrade that led to development of the CH-47D. The first prototype flew on 14 May 1979 and the first production aircraft flew on 26 February 1982. 441 early model Chinooks went through an extensive modernisation process in Philadelphia that produced an essentially new CH-47 fleet. CH47D deliveries to the US Army took place until the mid-1990s.
The D model had a more powerful Honeywell L-712 engine that could handle a 25,000-pound useful load – nearly twice the Chinook’s original lift capacity. These engines were upgraded again to the L-714A variant. The CH-47D was heavily involved in United States Army combat operations in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Several rolling modernisation programs continue to ensure this multi-mission aircraft remains in service through to the 2030s and beyond. With the number of variations, Boeing has more recently marketed the Chinook as the H-47. Modern versions of the H-47 have been built under license in Italy (ICH-47F) and Japan (CH-47JA+) in addition to the CH-47F/MH-47G that are produced in the United States. Boeing already has plans for a CH-47F Block II that will feature a series of upgrades focused on increasing payload, providing commonality across the fleet and creating a foundation for affordable future upgrades. A swept tip, composite advanced rotor blade has already been developed, providing an estimated 1,500-pound increase in payload.
Since the Chinook’s introduction over 50 years ago more than 1,200 vehicles have been delivered to 18 operators, with over 800 aircraft still in operation today. The CH-47’S workhorse reputation has made it a desirable option worldwide. In addition to the US Army’s substantial fleet, many countries have chosen a number of CH-47 to meet their heavy-lift needs.
“THE LACK OF A TAIL ROTOR PERMITS NEARLY 100 PER CENT POWER TO BE USED FOR LIFT, MAKING IT IDEAL FOR AIRCRAFT RECOVERY MISSIONS”
An RAF CH-47 practises a limited visibility landing known as a brownout. This type of landing can make large blinding dust clouds, stirred up by the helicopter’s downwash, causing significant flight safety risks from aircraft and ground obstacle collisions
An RAF pilot and co-pilot navigate their CH-47 over Wales