In June, Boeing began delivery of 13 new CH-147F model Chinooks to Canada. Here, the first helicopter off the line demonstrates its capabilities Aug. 28. (Boeing)
MIDDLETOWN, DEL. — Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar head the list of countries looking to begin flying variants of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in coming years, Boeing officials said here Wednesday. .
If deals being negotiated between Boeing, the US government, and these three countries eventually come to fruition, projections are that at least 54 Chinooks would be shipped overseas, making up a good portion of the 168 Chinooks that foreign clients around the globe are considering buying in coming years.
Pentagon officials and defense industry brahmins have been talking for the better part of two years about how they’re planning to rely on foreign sales to make up for the reductions they’re seeing in the US defense market, but a chart shown to reporters Wednesday really drove that point home.
On top of the 830 Chinook H-47 variants that are currently flying around the world, the chart showed, Boeing executives are working with foreign clients and the US government to sell another 168 to new and existing clients if all goes as planned.
In addition to the six CH-47D models and 16 CH-47F models that Libyan officials are working on buying, Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in fielding one of the world’s largest CH-47F fleets, with at least 24 helicopters being considered for the oil-rich kingdom.
Mark Ballew, director of business development for Boeing’s Chinook program, said the company is preparing to do a flight demonstration in Saudi Arabia, and that Qatar is interested in buying eight of the “F” models similar to what the company produced for Canada, which feature larger external fuel tanks and an upgraded electrical system.
Morocco, which has already purchased three “D” models, also is talking about buying three more, and Egypt, which currently flies 18 “D”s, has enquired about buying six more from the US Army as it retires them in the switch to the upgraded “F” aircraft.
Boeing is also involved in the competition for India’s heavy lift requirement, which would mean 15 more “F” aircraft if it wins.
The deals with these countries are still very early on in the negotiation stage, Ballew and other executives stressed, adding that contracts for the birds aren’t expected soon.
Any deals several years down the road would be welcome news for Boeing, however, as the company’s $4 billion, five-year deal with the US Army for 214 more CH-47 “F” models will end in 2019.
That agreement would add to the 241 CH-47F helicopters that the Army already has in its fleet, eventually bringing the service close to its goal of 464 “F” models.
The foreign deals — especially with countries in the Middle East — aren’t just helicopter contracts, however. Countries in the region have generally neglected establishing their own maintenance and logistics programs, which would mean years of repair work for the contractor.