The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has received its first new MH-47G Block II Chinook helicopter.
The new MH-47G Chinooks will be flown by the expert hands of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s pilots. Also known as the Night Stalkers, these are the best rotary-wing pilots in the world. In the past two decades alone, they have flown some historic missions, including the raids that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
The MH-47G Chinook is the main heavy-lift workhorse of the Night Stalkers. It’s primarily used for long-range insertions of special operations elements. The Block II upgrade includes a lighter but more rigid airframe and better rotor blades that allow for a 1,500 lbs increase in lift capacity.
The MH-47G has a maximum speed of 196 miles, courtesy of its powerful Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines that can produce 9,387 horsepower (almost 62 times more than the average American car), and a maximum operational range of 391 miles (without taking into consideration mission-specific parameters).
Manufactured by Boeing, the Chinook helicopter first entered service all the way back in the 1960s. According to Colonel Phil Ryan, the commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC), there is an MH-47 currently serving that was delivered in 1966 has more than 11,000 flight hours. The helicopter, of course, has gone under significant modernization multiple times.
Andy Builta, Boeing vice president and H-47 program manager, said in a press release that “This delivery marks a major step for the Chinook program. The new Chinook will give U.S. Special Operations Forces significantly more capability for extremely challenging missions and will enable them to conduct those missions on the future battlefield.”
The MH-47G variant of the venerable Chinook helicopter is a highly sought-after platform. In 2018, the British government requested the sale of 16 CH-47 Chinooks, which is the standard version of the helicopter, but also the parts necessary to turn the helicopters to the “M” special operations version. The U.S. State Department and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) approved the sale.
Additionally, the Afghan Army’s Special Mission Wing, an elite aviation unit, will be receiving the CH-47 Chinook but presumably with the option to upgrade it to the MH-47G Chinook in the future.
A key difference between the special operations and conventional variants of the Chinook is weight. Due to several additional pieces of equipment, the “M” version is considerably heavier than the conventional versions. Although that equipment is in place to ensure survivability and stealthiness, they do slow down the “M” version.
The additional equipment includes extended-range fuel tanks, the AN/AAQ-24 LAIRCM countermeasure system to fend off heat-seeking missiles, improved GPS navigation systems, better electro-optical/infrared sensor turrets, radio-frequency countermeasure systems, and infrared exhaust suppressors. Moreover, the “M” variant comes with a healthy dose of firepower in the form of the M-134D-T mini guns and M240H machine guns.
The helicopters would have been delivered earlier if it weren’t for a brief halting of operations because of the Coronavirus pandemic.