Medium-to-Heavy-Lift Helicopters – CF Procurement – April 2006/Feb 2008
Chinooks! PRT-à-Porter ? Can
CHAPS put a CF Medium-Lift Helicopter in Afghanistan before the Current Mission Ends?
Lt-Col James Dorschner (US Army Reserve, Ret). Lt-Col Dorschner
was with the Military Intelligence Branch (with Special Forces and Special Operations Forces).
He is now a Special Correspondent
for Jane's Defense Weekly.
Chinooks for Afghanistan: How about Hurrying the Honkin' Huge
[Ed: A decade ago, the Netherlands took delivery of seven medium-lift Chinook helicopters
formerly belonging to the Canadian Forces. Why? Because the Tory government of Brian Mulroney decided it would
rather have the cash. When Gen Rick Hillier became Chief of Defence Staff, the acquisition of new CF
medium-lift helicopters was a priority. The Chinook was the aircraft he had in mind but these
helicopters are in hot demand. Is CHAPS a way to jump the long Chinook queue?]
Update 11 Feb 2008: Two years later and DND is approaching the Pentagon
about six CH-47Ds from the CHAPS program. A CP report listed costs at $14M per heli- copter.
The reason for re-investigating CHAPS is that Canada has been unable to queue jump for its 16 new CH-47Fs (the Medium-to-Heavy-Lift Helicopter ACAN).
With little progress on the CH-47Fs since that July 2006 ACAN, MHLH is said to have stalled. Full
Chinook production lines aside, difficulties include changes to specifications to 'Canadianize' the
helicopter and to add features of special forces MH-47 model Chinooks. Other roles have also been tacked
on that have nothing to do with the Afghan mission which sparked interest in CH-47s in the
Original article submitted by Lt-Col James Dorschner ( USAR ) –
The Boeing/US Army CH-47 Cargo Helicopter Alternate Procurement Strategy (or CHAPS) program may
offer the 'medium-lift' helicopter solution General Hillier is looking for, and there may even be a way to
pay for it. According to Boeing, the CHAPS program allows third parties to buy US Army CH-47Ds (already earmarked for
'remanufacture' into advanced CH-47Fs) for roughly US $15 M each. This amount is about half the price of
a new-build CH-47D and much less than a 'new-build' CH-47F. This more modern Chinook,
is selling for about US $35 to 40 million each.
Under the CHAPS arrangement , the money from US Army CH-47D-model aircraft , sold by Boeing, can be used to 'top
up' the Army funding which has already been
budgeted for CH-47F remanufacture. The added revenue will allow the Army to buy a brand new CH-47F for each 'D
sold. An aircraft purchased under CHAPS will, of course, be overhauled and upgraded to the latest
CH-47D-model standards by Boeing prior to delivery. Sales of US military aircraft are usually
complicated by restrictions.
To simplify the CHAPS transactions,
all 'Third Party ' purchases are handled as a
Direct Commercial Sale (DCS), rather than the usual Foreign Military Sale (FMS). Egypt is the first
customer to sign up for CHAPS CH-47s, with Australia expected to follow shortly. The Netherlands,
Spain, Italy, and Great Britain may be next.
The US Army would do whatever it could to facilitate a Canadian CHAPS deal to ensure a strong partner in Afghanistan,
and reduce CF dependence on US Army Chinooks there. That support could include accelerated CH-47 crew
By taking advantage of CHAPS – and with training support from the US Army – Canada could field a
small force of four to five Chinooks to Afghanistan, before the end of the current NATO
DND officials have cited an overall requirement for some 24 medium-lift Chinooks. An interim force of nine to
12 overhauled CH-47Ds could bridge the current gap – both in delivery time and operational experience –
pending procurement of new- build CH-47Fs, and the ultimate 'rebuild' of the CF's CHAPS
'D models into 'Fs.
Financing a Canadian Forces Chinook Purchase through a Trade-in of Griffons
Chinooks, purchased under the CHAPS plan, could be partly
subsidized by the sale of around 40 CH-146 Griffon
utility helicopters. Stocks of these smaller helicopters are already in storage. In addition, more
Griffons would be available if new Chinooks displaced some of the CH-146s, currently operated by 1
The Griffons – Bell Model 412s built at Mirabel, QC – are superb machines with a lot of life left in
them yet. It just so happens that cash- rich Chile recently stated a requirement for Griffon-sized
helicopters to replace its air force UH-1H Hueys (an earlier model, single-engined Bell aircraft) and army
Puma transport helicopters.
The Chilean air force and its navy already operate a number of Bell Model 412s (the US Departments of Commerce
and State list used Bell Model 412s as the aircraft of choice for Chile).  Chile would dearly
love to get hold of 40 Griffons, especially if the deal included spare parts, as well as a support link back
to Mirabel. [Ed: Chilean Bell 412s are equipped more like USMC UH-1Ns than CF CH-146s, so there may well be
work for Bell Canada re-fitting the aircraft.]
At a rough value of US $2.5 million per used Griffon, the US $100 million for those 40 Canadian CH-146s would
go a long way to helping to field an interim Chinook force. Remember: under CHAPS, each CH-47D costs only US
$15 M ($17 M) each.
CHAPS was begun to get around US Army accounting problems. The CF faces its own red-tape if it simply sells those
surplus Griffons. A major hurdle could be got around if Boeing would act as intermediary – accept
CH-146s on behalf of Chile in lieu of payment, making General Hillier happy by circumventing General
[ Update: As it turns out, the proceeds from the sale of surplus CF assets
needn't be folded back into General Revenue. The RCMP Air Services, for example, has an arrangement with
Treasury Board and Public Works. Any money gained from the sale of RCMP aircraft goes directly towards
the purchase of its replacement. Why could DND not negotiate a similar arrangement for a new Army Aviation
 Dutch pilots spend 10 weeks qualifying on the Chinook at the Army Aviation Center (Fort Rucker, AL)
before returning to the Netherlands for tactical training.
 The three frontline squadrons, 427, 408, and 430, plus 403, the
Helicopter Operational Training Squadron, could each operate 10 Griffons and 6 Chinooks.
 The Chilean Army (Ejército) has operated 15 Aérospatiale Pumas (SA-330C & SA-330F)
battlefield transports and three Super Pumas (AS-332) VIP helicopters. The USAF lists current
Ejército force levels at 10 Pumas and three Super Pumas. The Pumas will,
most likely, be replaced by NH Industries NH-90s or Mil Mi-17s.
 It had been planned to replace the UH-1Hs (akin to CH-118 Iroquois) with S-70 Blackhawks
(the high cost of S-70s meant that Chile had to consider used 412s). [Update: In Nov 2007, Chile decided to buy another 12 new Bell 412s from