MH-47 Chinook Helicopters

The MH-47 Chinook family of helicopters are advanced versions of CH-47 Chinooks flown by the US Army. The MH-47E and G Chinooks are the heavy lift component of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).:

MH-47 Roles

160th SOAR Chinooks are used for :

  • insertion, extraction and re supply of Special Operations Forces
  • refueling other helicopters, on the ground, in so-called 'fat cow' operations

MH-47is the only US Army helicopter capable of supporting Special Operations in the more mountainous regions of Afghanistan and as such it plays a major role in that theater.

MH-47 - Variants

The 160th SOAR have operated several flavors of MH-47 during its history


An early model, built around the CH-47D airframe brought into service with the Night Stalkers in the mid-eighties. Initially lacking many of the refinements added to later birds, many MH-47Ds have been steadily improved with better engine control systems, refueling probes. All of the 11 MH-47Ds once in the 160th SOAR inventory have now been upgraded to MH-47G standards.


The 'Echo' is similar to the MH-47D but with more powerful engines (T55L-714 vs the D model's T55-L712), enhanced management software, improved fuel capacity via integral fuel tanks and more advanced defensive avionics. The E model helicopters have been in service with the 160th SOAR since 1993. An upgrade program is underway that is steadily remanufacturing the MH-47E to MH-47G standards.


Based around the CH-47F, the 'Golf' is the newest and most advanced MH-47. It features a number of improvements of previous models such as:

  • Honeywell T55-GA-14A-714 engines
  • Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS)
    a suite of integrated digital mission management systems including LCD screens, communication devices, moving map displays and data processing systems. THe MH-47G has the ability to integrate data from external sensors, allowing it to 'see' over the horizon and make in-flight mission changes as appropriate
  • improved missile warning receiver
  • improved data modem

MH-47 - Equipment

A host of special gear, tailored to special operations, is carried by the MH-47.

MH-47 Avionics

  • FLIR
    A foward-looking infrared camera mounting in a bubble under the helicopter's chin enables the pilots to fly low level, at night and in marginal weather
  • multi-mode radar
    the MH-47's radar features terrain-following, terrain-avoidance and weather detection modes
  • secure radio communications
  • defensive systems
    infrared jammers, radar warning receivers and jammers, chaff and flare dispensers
  • personnel location system (PLS)
    a radio homing system that is used to locate downed pilots via compatible emergency beacons

MH-47 Armaments

MH-47s are armed with M134 7.62mm electrically-operated, air-cooled gatling guns, fitted in firing the left port/ right cabin door behind the cockpit. E/G models also have M240 7.62mm belt-fed machine guns fitted to windows towards the rear.

The MH-47 features a refueling probe, FLIR pod and terrain-following radar.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken

Extraction / Insertion Gear

Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES)
a set of rigs that allow for thick woolen ropes to be attached to the cabin to allow for operators to 'fast rope' down from the helicopter.

  • Special Patrol Insertion & Extraction System (SPIES)
    Used for extracting personnel from the ground, a single rope is attached to the helicopter and lowered down. A series of rings on the rope allow operators on the ground, all wearing special harnesses, to clip onto the rope. Up to 8 fully-laden troops can be lifted off the ground and carried away using this method
  • Rope ladder
    typically deployed through the belly hatch
  • Rescue hoist
    electrically-powered hoist for lifting men in a harness or a litter

MH-47 - Crew

The MH-47s are typically crewed by 5 Night Stalkers:

  • Pilot
  • Co-pilot
  • 3 x crewchiefs/aerial gunners

MH-47 (MH-47G) Specifications

Crew Pilot, Co-pilot + 3 crew chiefs/gunners
Engines 2xTextron Lycoming T55-4-714 Turboshaft engines
Dimensions L - 15.87m
W (rotor diameter) - 18.82m
H - 5.59m
Weights 12,210 kg (empty)
24,494 kg (max loadout)
Max Speed 259 kph
Range 1382 km
Armament 4 gun stations (port/starboard front and rear) :
2x m134 7.62mm miniguns (front)
2 xM240D 7.62mm machine gun (rear)
Avionics Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS)
Mission Management Software
Multi-mode radar
Hughes AN/AAQ-16 FLIR in chin turret
Digital moving map display
Aircraft Survivability Equipment Control
BM-AlliedSignal integrated avionics with four-screen NVG compatible EFIS
dual MIL-STD-1553 digital databusses
AN/ASN-145 AHRS; jamming-resistant radios
Rockwell Collins CP1516-ASQ automatic target hand-off system
inertial AN/ASN-137 Doppler,
Rockwell Collins AN/ASN-149(V)2 GPS receiver
Rockwell Collins ADF-149
Perkin-Elmer AN/AVR-2 laser
E-Systems AN/APR-39A laser warning receiver
Honeywell AN/AAR-47 missile warning systems
ITT AN/ALQ-136(V) pulse jammer and
Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-162 CW jammer
Tracor M-130 chaff/flare dispensers

MH-47E Chinook
Pilots of a MH-47G Chinook perform pre-flight tests. Note the 5 MFD LCS displays visible as part of the digital glass cockpit. The pilots interact with these MFDs via the switches in their surrounding bezel. Also visible, level with the pilot's upper arms, are the screens and keyboards for the 2 lower Control Display Units (CDUs).
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller/Released

MH-47E Chinook
A MH-47E flown by the 160th SOAR
US Dod photo: MSGT Chris Dries, USAF

MH-47 Resources

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MH-47 Chinook
A 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook lands in the Californian desert during an exercise.
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