The US Army’s CH-47F Chinook Block II programme has reached a major milestone with the loading of the first helicopter model into its final assembly phase.

Developed by Boeing, the first of three engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) helicopters is nearing completion and will be used by the US Army and special operations forces.

US Army Cargo Helicopters project manager colonel Greg Fortier said: “The CH-47F Block II represents tomorrow’s heavy lift readiness for the US Army and her allied partners.

“Whether it is increasing total payload, improving the transmission, advancing the Chinook rotor blade, or setting the conditions for supervised autonomous flight, this aircraft provides ground tactical commanders immense capability to win in the multi-domain battle.”

In July last year, Boeing was awarded the contract to build the CH-47F Chinook helicopter under the Block II programme.

“Block II upgrades will help keep Chinooks in operation for the US Army into the 2060s.”

The programme has been designed to carry out a wide range of upgrades that would help improve the lift capability of the aircraft, in addition to advanced Chinook rotor blades, an upgraded fuselage, a new fuel system and drivetrain.

The upgrades will help increase the commonality between the US Army and allied fleets, reducing maintenance costs of the helicopters.

Boeing Cargo Helicopters vice-president and H-47 programme manager Chuck Dabundo said: “Our progress from contract award to final assembly in less than a year is a direct result of the efficiency and reliability of the programme.

“Block II upgrades will help keep Chinooks in operation for the US Army into the 2060s.”

Construction of the first Block II CH-47F helicopter is expected to complete next year, with delivery planned for 2023.

The US Army intends to upgrade more than 500 Chinook helicopters to the new configuration.