US Army, March 11, 2015 - STOCKTON, Calif. by by Capt. Jason Sweeney - New upgrades to an old workhorse are bringing added capability to the California National Guard’s helicopter fleet.
The Cal Guard has been replacing its aging CH-47D fleet, which consists of aircraft originally built in the 1960s and '70s, with brand new, high-tech CH-47F Chinooks.
The first of 12 new CH-47F Chinooks arrived at the Cal Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Stockton, California, on Nov. 6, flying cross country from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.
Ten of the aircraft have arrived in Stockton so far with two more arriving over the next several years. The Chinooks belong to Stockton-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, known as the Delta Schooners.
The new CH-47F helicopters are right off the assembly line with all new parts. The F-model retains the Chinook’s rugged, dual-rotor, heavy-lift airframe but adds a high-tech digital cockpit that practically flies the aircraft by itself.
“The CH47F brings improved situational awareness, reduced pilot workload, and higher operational readiness rates while maintaining all the lifting and load carrying capacity of the CH47D,” said Maj. John Allen, commander of the Army Aviation Support Facility in Stockton.
On Feb. 9 at the facility, the Cal Guard unveiled the new aircraft during a ceremony attended by Guard members, their families, retirees, the media and elected officials.
Congressman Jerry McNerney, of California's 9th Congressional District, was a keynote speaker at the unveiling ceremony, which took place in a California Army National Guard aircraft hangar.
“I was honored to be invited to help welcome the new Chinook helicopters to the Stockton Army Aviation Support Facility and address those present,” McNerney said after the ceremony. “Stockton has the only full Chinook base in the entire state of California. The CH-47s are important military assets for our region and are vital for search-and-rescue missions and emergency response. I'm proud to support the Guard and the dedicated men and women who give their time and expertise to serve our community and our nation.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony were 13th Assembly District Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, 44th Assembly District Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin and 26th Assembly District Assemblyman Devon Mathis.
The ceremony included several speeches and concluded with a low-level flyby, in which a CH-47F and a CH-47D zoomed over the crowd which had assembled on the airfield.
“The Chinook has been our heavy-lift workhorse for both our state and overseas missions for decades,” said Col. Robert Spano, an Army aviator and the director of the California Military Department Joint Staff. “The new upgrades and advanced capability the F model brings to the fight will only further our ability to save lives and property here at home and support operations abroad.”
In California, the Chinook does everything from troop movement to cargo transport to high altitude search and rescues to water drops while fighting wildfires.
The old workhorse first joined the Army’s aircraft fleet in 1962. While the Army has long since retired other helicopters from that era, such as the iconic UH-1 Hueys and AH-1 Cobras, the Chinook is still flying strong.
Its versatility, usefulness and power, along with some high-tech upgrades, mean the aircraft will be a part of Army Aviation for decades to come.