The South Korean Army (Republic of Korea Army) operates about 30 CH-47Ds as utility transports, while the Air Force (Republic of Korea Air Force) runs six HH-47Ds mainly for search and rescue. The average age of the CH-47Ds is 37 years, and that of the HH-47Ds is nearly 20 years. The South Korean administration of former President Park Geun-hye purchased more than a dozen Chinook CH-47D helicopters at a hefty price tag of $130 million from the U.S. military, but the choppers were 45-year-old models that were neither equipped with navigation nor missile warning systems.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Rockwell Collins have signed an agreement to collaborate on upgrading the Republic of Korea Armed Forces’ Boeing CH-47D Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to undertake Chinook modifications at the Army Aviation School in Nonsan, 210 kilometers south of Seoul. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration is scheduled to issue a request for proposals to bidders as early as August.
Critical issues with the helicopters include missing GPS-enabled navigation systems, which the U.S. military removed prior to sale. The helicopters are still without GPS and cannot be deployed in times of bad weather or during maritime operations. The helicopters are also missing missile-warning systems that could be critical in times of conflict. Bulletproof installation is also missing from the floor, and manual control is required for operations that have now been standardized to be automatic on most combat helicopters.
The Chinook modernization project is aimed at modernizing a total of 27 Chinook helicopters by overhauling their design, engines, avionics, cockpits and others, according to the Army. In addition to the South Korean Chinook programme, KAI said the MoU would also provide an opportunity for the two companies to collaborate on exploring opportunities for aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) programmes in regional markets.
Besides the upgrade effort, the South Korean Army seeks to buy about 10 to 12 CH-47F models from Boeing through a commercial contract, according to Boeing officials.
The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter developed by American rotorcraft company Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol (later known as Boeing Rotorcraft Systems). The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. Its name, Chinook, is from the Native American Chinook people of modern-day Washington state. The military version of the helicopter has been subject to numerous export sales from nations across the world, typically using it as heavy-lift rotorcraft in a military context; the U.S. Army and the Royal Air Force (see Boeing Chinook (UK variants)) have been its two largest users. The civilian version of the Chinook is the Boeing Vertol 234. It has been used for a variety of purposes by a range of different civil operators, having often been used for passenger and cargo transport, along with niche roles such as aerial firefighting and to support various industrial activities, including logging, construction, and oil extraction.