Boeing Competes for Heavy-Lift Helicopter
By WENDELL MINNICK, BANGALORE, India
Boeing plans to compete for the Indian Air Force (IAF) requirement of 12 heavy-lift helicopters, said Dean Millsap, Asia-Pacific regional director, Boeing International Business Development and Integrated Defense Systems.
Millsap said Boeing is waiting for the official request for proposals (RfP) from the IAF, which is expected in the second quarter of this year. “It takes about 20-34 months from contract award to delivery,” he said.
At Boeing’s request, the U.S. military flew in one CH-47EMD Chinook helicopter, which served as the prototype for the new F model.
One aspect of the new F model that interests the IAF are lessons learned by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Model D helicopters suffered from crashes caused by low visibility in desert or night conditions. The pilots were unable to judge the proper distance from the ground when landing and in flight. The new F models have the capability of landing in “brown-out and whiteout conditions,” Millsap said.
“The Indian military is very interested in high-altitude performance, especially brown-out and whiteout conditions,” he said. “The IAF is impressed by its operational capability in austere, high altitude and limited visibility environments.”
Another factor of interest is the CH-47’s capability of operating at high altitudes, at about 20,000 feet. Many of India’s military bases used by the Army are in the northern border areas near Pakistan and China in the Himalayan region. “The aircraft is actually for the Army, but the IAF will buy it,” said a source.
Millsap also said that India is interested in the Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS), which includes a multifunction display system manager, CDU-7000 multifunction control unit and digital map.
Indian military officials were allowed to fly the CH-47EMD, and Millsap said they were “extremely impressed by the ease of flying the aircraft.”
The multimission aspect of the aircraft has attracted interest by the IAF.
“We have not had official inquiries from the IAF, but some unofficial requests for information,” he said.
Some of this interest has been on the multimission aspect of the aircraft, which includes logistics, troop transport, search and rescue, special operations, medical evacuation and humanitarian relief. A Boeing official pointed out during a press conference here that CH-47s played a significant role in humanitarian relief during the Pakistan earthquake in September 2005.
Millsap said a rough estimate for 12 CH-47F models would be about $600 million. Part of the RfP requirement will be for “in-production” aircraft.
Regarding offsets, Boeing does not foresee a co-build or co-assembly option due to the small number of aircraft to be ordered. However, “we are doing an integrated offset with integrated systems. We are going to meet the offset requirements. We are not closed-minded; we are going to work with them,” Millsap said.