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Chinook Replaces Blackhawk in Combat
by James Dunnigan
March 25, 2008

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For the last two decades, the U.S. Army used the its UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopter for combat assault missions, while the larger CH-47 "Chinook" was used just for moving cargo. But the army found that, in the high altitudes of Afghanistan, the more powerful CH-47 was often the only way to go in the thin mountain air. While doing that, the army found that the CH-47 made an excellent assault helicopter. In many ways, it was superior to the UH-60, mainly because the CH-47 carries more troops and moves faster and farther.

The Blackhawk can only carry eleven troops, and max speed is 285 kilometers an hour, with endurance of 2.1 hours. The CH-47F can carry ten tons of cargo, or up to 55 troops, and has a maximum range of 426 kilometers. Its max speed is 315 kilometers an hour. Typical missions last no more than 2.5 hours. This means that one CH-47 can carry 40-50 combat troops, and all their gear. For most air assaults, one CH-47 does the job that would otherwise require five UH-60s.

The first CH-47s entered service in 1962, able to carry only five tons. Some 750 saw service in Vietnam, and 200 were lost in action. Between 1982-94, 500 CH-47s were rebuilt to the CH-47D standard. SOCOM operates 31 MH-47Ds and Es, which have additional navigation gear. These are being upgraded to MH-47F standards, and the fleet expanded to 61 helicopters. As a result of all this, the CH-47 will end up serving at least 75 years. The CH-47F upgrades and new builds will not be completed until 2018. New CH-47Fs cost about $35 million each.

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