New Delhi: The United States Army has grounded its entire fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters over a “small number” of engine fires, but the development is unlikely to have an impact on India, which operates the same choppers.
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the Indian Air Force is in touch with both US defence officials and Boeing, the manufacturer of the chopper.
It has been learnt that there have been incidents involving some US Army Chinooks that underwent a maintenance repair overhaul (MRO) process, the sources said.
India, on the other hand, hasn’t faced any fire issues with its Chinook fleet till date, as the parts in question are different, added the sources.
The US grounded its fleet “out of an abundance of caution”, but more than 70 aircraft were being examined as they “contained a part that is suspected to be connected” to the fires. The grounding could “pose logistical challenges” for US soldiers, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, quoting US officials.
The engines for the Chinooks are made by North Carolina-based Honeywell International . However, a company spokesman told WSJ that the firm and the US Army had determined that the engine components called O-rings “didn’t meet the company’s design specifications”.
“He said the parts were installed during routine maintenance at an Army facility. While he declined to name the company that made the parts, the Honeywell spokesman said the company is working to supply the Army with replacements,” WSJ reported, adding that the root cause identified by the US Army was fuel leaks that caused engine fires to several choppers.
How India uses its Chinook fleet
Named after a Native American community from the Pacific Northwest, the CH-47 Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter that can not only transport troops, artillery and fuel, but also supplies and refugees amid disasters and humanitarian crises. It has been in use by the United States since 1962.
As ThePrint had previously reported, India got its first four Chinook helicopters in February 2019, after ordering 15 of them from the US in 2015, as part of a nearly $3 billion deal that also included 22 Apache helicopters.
The Chinooks are India’s main heavy lift choppers for transferring troops and equipment, especially in the mountains.
The big factor behind the purchase of the choppers was that they’re capable of slinging the M777 lightweight howitzers from one location to the another, especially in mountainous terrain like along the borders with China.
Following the India-China standoff in eastern Ladakh in 2020, Chinooks have been deployed in the region and have been used extensively.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)