Brand new Chinook helicopters will soon be flying the Central Texas skies as the Royal Netherlands’ 302nd Squadron received the latest model CH-47 July 21 at Robert Gray Army Airfield.
The CH-47 F-model is outfitted with a Rockwell Collins common avionics architecture system cockpit. The CAAS is aimed to provide aviators with enhanced situational awareness through the use of five multi-functional digital displays, including the BAE Systems digital advanced flight control system with a touchscreen GPS map display.
“It’s going to be a little bit fact finding – how to integrate everything,” Maj. Jarin Elsinga, acting commander of the 302nd Sqdn., said about the transition to the new model. “There’s going to be new challenges, but also new possibilities.”
The 302nd Sqdn., consisting of Dutch Soldiers and airmen from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Army, is assigned to the 166th Aviation Brigade, First Army – Division West. Under a formal agreement between the two nations, the Dutch soldiers and airmen train at Fort Hood to prepare for combat missions.
Elsinga, a member of the Royal Netherlands Army, said the aircraft changeover, which has been in the making for about four years, will include a fleet of 28 Chinooks – six at Fort Hood and 22 in the Netherlands. He added that these are the first airframes actually owned by the Dutch government.
The new helicopters are the same models currently used by their American partners. Elsinga said, due to the changes to the helicopter mechanics, there will be a team of instructor pilots coming in to train them how to use the new systems.
The Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter that has a variety of functions and purposes. Using twin Honeywell T55 turboshaft engines, which allow the CH-47 F to fly up to 170 knots (196 miles per hour, 315 kilometers per hour), the helicopter can arrive at a destination quickly. The multi-use aircraft can transport equipment and personnel in altitudes above 10,000 feet, carry payloads of up to 26,000 pounds, with the ability to reach troops in mountainous regions, deliver supplies and complete rescue missions.
The last time the squadron received helicopters was in 1995, when they received the CH-47 D-model helicopters. As with any mechanical device, Elsinga said they eventually became outdated.
“From a sustainment perspective, we’re going in the right direction because it gives us a lot of possibilities,” Maj. Bart Hoekstra, an engineer with the squadron and a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, said.
The brand new helicopters were built at the Boeing facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, then transported to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, to undergo some modifications before heading to Fort Hood. Externally, Elsinga said there are slight differences, but someone would have to be an expert to spot those differences. Right now, the biggest difference is the brand new paint job.
“I think it will be nice to see those new airframes on the flight line and in the Texas skyline,” Elsinga said. “We’re looking forward to that.”