Libya, Egypt and Morocco have expressed interest in acquiring CH-47 Chinooks from Boeing, while potential customers in the Middle East region include Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to Boeing officials.
Libya is looking at acquiring six CH-47D models and 16 CH-47F models, which would be acquired through a Foreign Military Sales scheme. “Libya is an existing operator in Africa. They have come in and made enquiries to Boeing and the US government,” said Steve Barlage, Senior Manager, International Business Development (Mobility Rotorcraft) at Boeing.
Libya began upgrading some of its Chinooks before the 2011 revolution, through AgustaWestland, which has rights in Libya for CH-47C/D model upgrades as the company was the original supplier, according to Mark Ballew Director, Business Development at Boeing Vertical Lift. AgustaWestland is also responsible for supporting Libyan CH-47s. Only a small number of CH-47Cs are believed to be operational in Libya at present.
Paul Oliver, Vice President, Middle East and Africa, International Business Development, said that aircraft like the CH-47 make sense in places like Libya where there was a lot of runway damage during the revolution, but cautioned that the country’s government was still reorganising following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. Barlage added to this by saying that due to the turmoil in Libya, it’s not yet clear what will happen with that sale. He added that the situation was similar in Egypt, with uncertainty prevailing.
Egypt has 18 D model Chinooks, which in the 2000s were upgraded from C models. The country has made serious enquiries about purchasing six more CH-47Ds from the US Army, according to Defense News. Boeing is presently building AH-64 Apaches for Egypt, but it is up to the US government to decide on whether or not to deliver them, given the current security situation in the country.
Morocco is another key potential market in North Africa, and has discussed purchasing three D model Chinooks, in addition to the three CH-47Ds it bought under a previous contract with the US government.
Elsewhere in the region, Ballew said that there have been many Chinook enquiries from the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is considering 24 Chinooks and will benefit from a flight demonstration, while Qatar is interested in buying eight F models. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) bought 11 C models from AgustaWestland and acquired another four Chinooks from Boeing several years ago. The Emirates recently signed a contract for 16 F models, to be delivered between now and 2017. So far two have been delivered.
Boeing estimates that foreign customers around the world will buy around 170 Chinooks in the coming years, although it is cautious about potential future contracts with foreign customers. India recently downselected the Chinook to be the Air Force’s new heavy lift platform and Boeing is in contract negotiations with the country. Initial discussions are for 15 aircraft, but India may acquire more. Boeing said the Indian development is positive, but will know of a firm contract within six months or so.
Some 20 countries around the world operate Chinooks, with 831 flying and 293 on order. Production of the D model has ended (although ex-US military D models are available for sale) and production has switched over to the improved F model, which features a new, more maintainable airframe, glass cockpit and other features. Further improvements over the next several years will see new rotor blades being added providing 900 kg more lift, and an improved cargo handling system with reversible rollers that can be flipped over to give a flat floor.
Boeing is building 464 F model Chinooks for the United States Army, and as of September 15 has delivered 252. Production stands at 4.5 aircraft per month – US Army production will conclude in 2019.
Apache, Little Bird, MV-22
Apart from its Chinook, Boeing is also promoting the AH-64 Apache and AH-6i Little Bird helicopters. A dozen countries around the world are currently flying 1 056 AH-64 Apaches, with the 2 000th rotorcraft delivered in March this year. Production is set to continue for at least another decade through 2026, with 65-70 delivered this year, according to Brad Rounding, Boeing International Business Development, Vertical Lift.
Boeing is ending D model Apache production and shifting to the F, which features a much longer range fire control radar with radar frequency interferometer to detect enemy radar signals, more powerful engines, improved rotor blades and other features.
Rounding said that Korea has recently ordered 36 Apaches while Indonesia has just signed a letter of acceptance (LOA) for eight Apaches and Boeing expects a contract from that country soon.
Meanwhile, Boeing expects to sell 700 of its Little Bird armed scout/reconnaissance helicopters around the world, particularly to countries that cannot afford the larger Apache. The Little Bird has its first launch customer and is on a demonstration tour to the Middle East where demand is expected to be high.
The Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor has yet to receive its first export customer, with the two companies only halfway through delivering 360 MV-22s and 50 CV-22s to the US military. Future customers could include Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan, according to Mike Rolecki, Boeing V22 Programme Manager.
“In the Asian theatre the Japanese are coming on strong,” he said. “We foresee signing a Middle East deal within the next year.” Rolecki added that the Middle East and Asia regions will probably see the first foreign V-22 sales. Countries there will most likely buy a dozen or less of the type.
Guy Martin is in the United States as a guest of Boeing.