One possible major change coming the helicopter’s way might concern its engine. For the past two years, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (DEVCOM AvMC), Boeing, and General Electric (GE) have been testing to see whether the Chinook could be fitted with a much more powerful engine.
Currently, some of the flying Chinooks move about using the so-called T55 engines, developed by Honeywell and capable of developing 4,800 shaft horsepower. However, the powerplant presently tested is much more potent than that.
Called T408 turboshaft engine, GE’s solution has been designed to develop 7,500 shaft horsepower, all of which have been put through their paces in 18 ground and seven flight tests conducted starting in 2019 and completed earlier this month.
According to General Electric, the T408 was put through its paces using three gross weight configurations, maximum torque, airspeed up to 140 knots, turns up to 60 degrees angle of bank, and altitudes up to 4,000 feet (1.2 km).
The results of the tests are encouraging, with the company saying they proved “the ability to successfully integrate heavier and more powerful engines into an H-47 aircraft while enabling the aircraft to operate and maneuver up to the aircraft limits at light, medium and heavyweight points.“
For now, the military did not say if and when it will go for the GE powerplant, but at least this is an option. Most recently, Honeywell was awarded a contract to make enough spare engines for the Chinook to last for the next four years.