Boeing is preparing to deliver a proposal to the U.S. Army to build 155 CH-47F Chinook helicopters as part of a multiyear procurement deal.
The helicopters purchased under the pact will include some newer features not installed in the current CH-47F fleet.
"Those aircraft will include a series of small design changes primarily driven by fielding requests," Patrick Donnelly, Boeing's director of domestic Chinook programs, said during an Oct. 12 interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington.
One modification is a new floor that includes embedded rollers - similar to the ones used in U.S. Air Force's C-17 cargo planes - that make loading pallets easier. Today, some Chinooks use an optional pallet-roller system that is not integrated.
The proposal is due by Nov. 1, however contract award is not expected until January 2013, Donnelly said.
The multiyear order "will essentially complete" the current CH-47F program of record, Donnelly said. Army production is expected to wrap up at the end of the decade.
The Army awarded Boeing a $4.3 billion multiyear pact for more than 180 CH-47F aircraft in August 2008.
The Chinook replacement, the Joint Multi-Role Heavy, is not expected until the 2030s. Boeing is looking to keep the existing Chinook fleet flying for decades to come.
"I think right now our goal would be to do another [service-life extension] where we will increase performance, as the primary focus [and] increase lift," he said.
Boeing is developing a new rotor blade that will give the helicopter about 2,000 more pounds of lift, without degrading forward flight performance, Donnelly said. The system is not scheduled to deliver with the first aircraft in the multiyear procurement deal.
"We have a critical design review coming up in January and we've already started to build flight ballistic test specimens and other things to qualify it," he said.
Still in the Hunt
Boeing is still closely watching the Air Force's HH-60 recapitalization program and has responded to requests for information and has provided the service cost and production data, according to Donnelly.
"We are still very much engaged," he said.
The company does not plan to bid on the Air Force's UH-1N replacement program, dubbed the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform. That program is in limbo as the Pentagon prepares to cut $450 billion in planned spending over the next decade.