The U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) helicopter fleet is set to get bigger after the purchase of an additional six MH-47G Block II Chinook choppers for its air fleet.
After 20 years of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, SOCOM is updating its platforms, which completed dozens of combat deployments.
MH-47G: A Special Operations Workhorse
The initial order was for 24 MH-47G Block II Chinooks, with the purchase of six more, bringing the total number to 30 special operation helicopters. The contract is worth a little more than $245 million.
The MH-47G Chinook is mainly used for long-range insertions of special operations forces. It sports two Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines that can produce an impressive 9,387 horsepower—for comparison, your car’s engine can produce about 62 times less horsepower. The MH-47G Chinook has a maximum speed of about 200 miles per hour and can fly up to almost 400 miles.
The Block II version of the helicopter comes with an improved and lighter structure and better rotor blades that, put together, allow for an increase of 1,500 pounds in lift capacity, thus increasing the aircraft’s performance and efficiency.
The new Chinooks will include the Active Parallel Actuator Subsystem (APAS), a system that aims to assist Night Stalkers in their flying and allow them to perform more difficult maneuvers while improving safety.
“APAS is one of many next-level capabilities that allows the Chinook to deliver more payload – faster, farther and smarter,” Andy Builta, Boeing’s vice president and H-47 program manager, said in a press release.
The helicopters will go to the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the “Night Stalkers.”
The Night Stalkers have already received four new Chinooks. According to Boeing, delivery of the additional aircraft is scheduled to start in 2023.
The Night Stalkers
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is the best fixed-wing special operations unit in the world. Night Stalkers pride themselves that they can deliver their cargo anywhere in the world plus or minus 30 seconds.
A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook is used to transport Soldiers during a combined arms live fire exercise at Ban Chan Khrem, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold, Feb. 19, 2016. Cobra Gold is a multinational training exercise developed to strengthen security and interoperability between the Kingdom of Thailand, the U.S. and other participating nations. (U.S. Marine Corps Combat Camera photo by Lance Cpl. Eryn L. Edelman/Released).
Created after Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages from the embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1980, the Night Stalkers have been an integral part of the U.S. special operations community. The unit has participated in almost every minor and major conflict the U.S. military has been engaged in since the mission in Iran.
The Night Stalkers fly three main rotary-wing aircraft. The AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird, the MH-60 and MH-60 Direct Air Penetrator (DAP) Blackhawk, and the MH-47G Chinook.
The AH-6 Little Bird is a small but versatile gunship that can pack a wide range go weapons. The MH-6 Little Bird is the transport/assault version of the chopper and is used to infiltrate and exfiltrate small special operations elements.
The MH-60 Blackhawk is the medium-lift mainstay of the Night Stalkers, while the DAP version of the aircraft is a heavily armed helicopter capable of some serious damage.
MH-47 Chinook’s assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) approach a Forward Area Refueling Point site manned by crews from the 7th Special Operation and 100th Logistics Readiness Squadrons in Pajoustic, Lithuania, May 15, 2016 during TROJAN FOOTPRINT 16. TF16 rapidly deployed more than 800 Special Operations Forces personnel from NATO and partner nations across the exercise’s training areas to ensure the Alliance and partner nations are able to rapidly assemble and train anywhere they are called to do so. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Chris Sullivan/Released)
Finally, the MH-47G Chinook is the heavy-lift workhorse of the unit capable of carrying dozens of special operators and their gear.