US approves sale of CH-47F Chinooks to South Korea

US State Department approval has been granted for the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 18 Boeing CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift tactical transport helicopters, complete with related equipment and support services, to South Korea for an estimated cost of $1.5bn.

Confirmation that the US State Department had approved this prospective FMS was announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on December 6, after it had notified the US Congress of the possible sale that same day. As part of the deal, South Korea has requested to buy 18 CH-47F Chinooks, along with 42 Honeywell T55-GA-714A turboshaft engines, 22 Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS) and 44 RT-1987 secure radios. Also included are an unspecified number of AN/APR-39 Radar Warning Systems; AN/ARC-220 High-Frequency (HF) Airborne Communications Systems; AN/APX-123A Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transponders, along with various other systems, receivers and sensors.

The US State Department approved the possible FMS of 18 CH-47F Chinooks to South Korea on December 6, 2022. The possible deal is worth an estimated $1.5bn.
The US State Department approved the possible FMS of 18 CH-47F Chinooks to South Korea on December 6, 2022. The possible deal is worth an estimated $1.5bn. US Air National Guard/Lt Jason Carr

The deal will also include the provision of US government and contractor-based engineering, technical and logistic support services. Associated logistical and programmatic support and repair/return and storage services have also been requested by the South Korean government. Boeing will serve as the principal contractor for this deal, with no offset agreements proposed in connection with the purchase.

Commenting on the prospective sale in a media release (published on December 6), the DSCA said: “The proposed sale will improve [South Korea’s] ability to meet current and future threats by strengthening its Army heavy-lift capability. The CH-47F will allow [South Korea] to conduct missions in support of bilateral operational plans which include, but are not limited to, medical evacuation, search and rescue, parachute drops, and disaster relief. [South Korea] will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”

In operational service, these 18 new-build CH-47Fs would be operated by the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), which boasts a long history of operations with the Chinook family. With deliveries commencing in June 1988, the ROKA received an initial fleet of 18 CH-47Ds. From 2003, these 18 helicopters were augmented by six CH-47SDs, fitted with long-range fuel tanks and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system.

In December 2013, the US State Department approved the sale of 14 ex-US Army CH-47Ds to South Korea – along with related support equipment/services and spare/repair parts – for an estimated cost of $151m. Of the 14 second-hand Chinooks delivered, nine went to the ROKA, while the remaining five were handed over to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). The ROKAF has also received eight HH-47Ds since the type entered Air Force service in December 1991.

The ROKA currently operates 32 Chinooks in total, comprising 26 CH-47Ds and six CH-47SDs, while the ROKAF still flies five CH-47Ds and seven HH-47Ds under the charge of the 231st Combat Search and Rescue Squadron at Cheongju Air Base.