Third Largest Operator Of Chinooks, South Korea Approves Plan To Procure More CH-47F Choppers From US

South Korea has approved a defense project to acquire an unspecified number of CH-47F Chinook helicopters to replace the army’s outdated CH-47D heavy-lift helicopters.

On March 28, the state arms procurement agency announced that the Defense Project Promotion Committee of South Korea approved a defense project worth 1.49 trillion Won (approximately US$1.15 billion) to purchase an unspecified number of CH-47F Chinook helicopters from Boeing, a US defense firm.

The acquisition of the CH-47F Chinook helicopters is scheduled to be completed by 2028, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said. 

The exact number of CH-47F Chinook helicopters to be procured was not disclosed by DAPA, but it is estimated that South Korea may acquire around 20 units. The main goal of this procurement is to replace the existing CH-47D helicopters. 

According to a statement released by DAPA, the timely replacement of the old heavy-lift utility helicopters through this project will ensure safe operations and significantly improve capabilities in large-scale transportation and disaster response.

File Image: Chinook Choppers

The bidding process for a new heavy-lift helicopter to replace South Korea’s old fleet began in March 2022. The US State Department approved in December 2022 the proposed sale of 18 CH-47F Chinook heavy helicopters to the Republic of South Korea for US$1.5 billion.

With the latest announcement, South Korea is set to join the group of countries operating the CH-47F helicopter, which includes the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Australia, India, and Singapore.

South Korea initially considered upgrading its current fleet of D-model helicopters but eventually opted to procure a more modern type of helicopter, citing their increased cost-effectiveness and technological compatibility.

At present, South Korea has the third-largest fleet of Chinook helicopters in the world, after the US and the UK. South Korea’s military possesses a fleet of 38 CH-47D and 5 HH-47D helicopters, and the average age of the entire fleet is 38.8 years, according to flight.

The purchase of CH-47F Chinook helicopters further enhances South Korea’s defense capabilities and technological advancements, serving as a deterrent against potential security threats from the North Korean government. 

The Chinook helicopter is known for its versatility, as it can be utilized in a range of environments and terrains, making it a valuable asset for the South Korean military.  

The tandem-rotor design of these helicopters provides increased capabilities for transporting cargo, enabling them to be used for a variety of purposes, including combat search and rescue, medical evacuations, disaster relief, and transportation.

As a result, the Chinook helicopter serves as a force multiplier for the South Korean armed forces.

CH-47F Chinook Helicopter

This latest iteration, called CH-47F, is a technologically advanced version of the workhorse cargo aircraft, which is known for its ability to transport troops, supplies, and food at high altitudes, especially in mountainous terrain.  

The CH-47F model incorporates modifications to the airframe structure that help to reduce the impact of vibration. Additionally, the cockpit, cabin, aft section, pylon, and ramp have all undergone structural improvements. 

The digital cockpit, supplied by Rockwell Collins, is equipped with the common avionics architecture system (CAAS), which features upgraded electrical, avionics, and communication systems.

The Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines used in the CH-47F model are more robust and powerful than previous models and are fitted with FADEC (full authority digital engine control). These engines generate a thrust of 3,529kW (4,733shp). 

As a result of these enhancements, the CH-47F model has an increased operating range of 609km (329nm) and a mission radius of 370.4km (200nm).

CH-47F Chinook: US Army

The CH-47F helicopter is utilized to transport troops and their equipment and can provide regular aerial support to maneuver forces. 

In addition to this primary role, the Chinook is also capable of performing secondary missions that assist Soldiers and commanders, including medical evacuations, search and rescue operations, parachute drops, disaster relief efforts, and aircraft recovery.

The CH-47F model had its maiden flight in 2001, and production began in 2006. It is possible to upgrade existing CH-47D helicopters to meet the CH-47F standard.

Chinook helicopters are equipped with the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS), a combat-proven protective technology. The system uses an ultraviolet sensor to detect incoming enemy fire and sends out a flare to divert the missile from its trajectory.

The Chinook military transport helicopter can be outfitted with as many as three 7.62 mm machine guns or miniguns, with two mounted in the doors and one on the loading ramp.