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Boeing's CH-47 Chinook in the Australian Defence Forces

New Chinook aircraft could soon be on the way for Australia, supplementing the current fleet."

In many of its duties, the Australian Army places a strong reliance on its Aviation Corps (AA Avn). From resupplying troops on the battlefield to transporting personnel, along with a number of others, the AA Avn is a major asset for defence missions.

One of the key tools at the heart of the AA Avn is the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. What is the Chinook's role in the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), what is it capable of, and what does the future hold in store for its use?

A strong history in Australian Defence

The roots of the CH-47's role in the ADF are found in Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. From the first arrival of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in 1962 to the final humanitarian evacuation missions in 1975, the conflict saw a commitment of nearly 60,000 Australian troops, according to the Australian War Memorial.

During missions in Vietnam, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAF) played a key role in airborne capabilities - particularly with squadrons of Iroquois helicopters. The Department of Defence notes, however, that leaders were impressed with the US CH-47s, which played a role in supporting Australian troops.

US Chinooks played a strong role in supporting Australian troops in the Vietnam War.US Chinooks played a strong role in supporting Australian troops in the Vietnam War.

Officials placed the order, and 12 CH-47Cs were delivered and entered into RAAF operations between October 1973 and March 1974. Over the next few decades, their transportation abilities proved extremely useful in disaster recovery and other humanitarian operations.

Unfortunately, the Chinooks proved to be costly to operate, and by 1989, all 11 remaining helicopters - one had been lost in an accident - were put into storage. That's not the end of the story for the Chinooks, however; the fleet was sent to the US, but four were upgraded to CH-47Ds and returned to service in Australia.

With the upgraded machines, and two more helicopters brought on board in 2000, AA Avn's C Squadron, 5th Aviation Regiment has put the Chinook fleet to good use in Iraq and Afghanistan - two were used in Afghanistan with almost no break in operations from 2006 to 2013.

Now, with the latest iteration of the Chinook available, the AA Avn is continuing its aerial tradition with the aid of the advanced capabilities of the CH-47F.

What's new in the CH-47F

Through the Digital Automatic Flight Control system, pilots can fly, hover and land in difficult environments with limited visibility.

The Chinook has always been a highly effective vehicle, and the CH-47 is certainly no exception. According to the Australian Army, it features a top speed of 315 kilometres per hour and a 600-kilometre range. Powered by two Textron Lycoming T55-L714 engines, it is one of the fastest helicopters operated by the ADF. At just over 15.5 metres in length, it's also the largest.

One of the biggest advantages of the CH-47 is its carrying capacity. Boeing, the Chinook's manufacturer, notes that a large ramp in the helicopter's rear enables effective on and offloading of cargo, while three hooks on the underbelly allow for internal or sling-operated carrying.

What truly makes the CH-47F model a standout aerial vehicle is its advanced avionics. Through the Digital Automatic Flight Control system, pilots can fly, hover and land in difficult environments with limited visibility - including inclement weather conditions and brownouts.

Special delivery for the Australian Army

The Chinook program is truly global in scale, exemplified by the fact that over 19 countries have added these helicopters to their ranks, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and others. Such a global reach carries additional benefits, particularly when it comes to procurement and support.

The global scale of the CH-47 program is conducive to excellent support and interoperability.The global scale of the CH-47 program is conducive to excellent support and interoperability.

On July 6th, a mere 85 days after placing the order, the Australian Army received three CH-47F Chinooks from Boeing - this shipment brought the total number of CH-47Fs up to 10.

"The increase from seven to 10 CH-47F Chinooks represents a significant increase to the capability of the Australian Defence Force through an aircraft which we already know is both highly dependable and reliable, and also affordable," noted Col. Jeremy King, director of the Cargo Helicopter and Unmanned Surveillance Program Office.

The ADF uses the same configuration for the helicopters as the US military.

This most recent delivery isn't the only instance of impressive delivery from Boeing; the first seven Chinooks, which arrived in Australia in September 2015, were also both ahead of schedule and on budget. A significant factor in this is that the ADF uses the same configuration for the helicopters as the US military. According to Boeing, the three Chinooks delivered in July were already in production for use in the US when the order was placed. With permission from the US Army, they were sent to Australia instead.

With this interoperability, and the machine's impressive suite of features, the CH-47F will continue to play a prominent role in Australia's defence operations.

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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