The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) will in the coming months take delivery of three ex-US Army CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters, which are currently being refurbished prior to delivery.
The aircraft are being worked on by Columbia Helicopters at its new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Aurora State Airport in Oregon.
Refurbishment work is being carried out under a $6 million contract and involves a complete interior and exterior refurbishment and airframe and engine overhaul, according to Columbia Helicopters.
“We are excited about this project,” said Scott Ellis, director of business development for Columbia Helicopters. “This contract brings three large helicopters to our facility, where we’ll clean, inspect and repair them. At the end of the process, we’re going to hand Morocco’s Air Force three aircraft that are completely re-conditioned and in excellent shape.”
Issued through the US Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales (FMS) office, the contract involves “resetting” and painting the three aircraft. Resetting an aircraft is a post-desert operations cleaning and inspection and repair that also includes a 400-hour aircraft phase maintenance inspection. During the seven month project, Columbia’s crews will also transform the olive-drab paint scheme into a more appropriate desert camouflage pattern. Near the end of the project, company personnel will deliver, reassemble and flight test the aircraft in Morocco, Columbia Helicopters said.
The first CH-47D arrived at Columbia Helicopters’ facility on August 11, followed by another on the 12th and the third on the 13th.
The Royal Moroccan Air Force is believed to operate between three and eight surviving CH-47Cs. In the 1970s Morocco ordered 12 CH-47Cs, which were delivered from Italy’s Elicotteri Meridonali in two batches of six in 1979 and 1982. In October 2009 the North African country put in an official request for three CH-47Ds, worth around $134 million.
However, it appears Morocco has gone the second hand route. The US Army is retiring large numbers of CH-47Ds, with an estimated 40 on the surplus market, according to Paul Leach, Columbia Helicopters’ Director, Military Maintenance.
The RMAF has a sizeable helicopter force, including 19 Aerospatiale SA-342 Gazelles, of which seven are equipped with HOT anti-tank missiles and 12 with cannon. Utility helicopters include around a dozen Agusta-Bell AB-206 (Bell 206) Jet Rangers, three AB-212s, 25 AB-205As, two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and 24 SA-330 Pumas.