Defining the Future of Flight: 1997 -- present

Supporting Our Troops

Boeing improvements in fighters, rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft technologies continued to provide and protect troops around the world.

The first MH-47G Special Operations Chinook was delivered on May 7, 2004, to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter first flew Oct. 25, 2006, and joined the U.S. Army's aviation fleet on Aug. 27, 2007. In 2008, the U.S. Army ordered 181 CH-47F Chinooks, and on July 7, 2009, the modified Chinook Mk3 made its first flight in England for Boeing Defence UK Ltd., a Boeing subsidiary. On July 27, 2009, Boeing observed the 45th anniversary of the CH-46 Sea Knight's first flight.

By April 26, 2006, the U.S. Army AH-64 Apache combat helicopter fleet had logged more than two million flight hours. The following year, the U.S. Army signed a $276.4 million contract with Boeing Rotorcraft Systems for 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow multirole combat helicopters. In 2008, the AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter made its first flight.

A160T Hummingbird in flight
First flight of the A160T Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft

During 2006, first flights included the second canard rotor/wing X-50A Dragonfly unmanned air vehicle, the Unmanned/Manned A/MH-6X light-turbine helicopter, and the A160 Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft. The turbine-powered version, the A160T, made its first flight June 15, 2007.

The Boeing AH-6i Light Attack helicopter first flew Sept. 16, 2009, seven months after the company started work on the prototype aircraft. It featured a cockpit that uses software based on that in the Apache Block III.

The V-22 Osprey tiltrotor entered the arena March 28, 2008, when Boeing and Bell won a $10.4 billion contract to built 167 V-22s. And on May 19, 2008, the A10 Hummingbird unmanned rotorcraft set a world record in its weight class by flying for 18.7 consecutive hours. In August 2009, the U.S. Marines awarded Boeing a contract to prepare the Hummingbird for the Marines Immediate Cargo Unmanned Aerial Demonstration.

Unmanned Little Bird
Unmanned Little Bird demonstrator makes first flight without a safety pilot

On April 12, 2006, Boeing demonstrated the ability of an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter to control a UAV weapon payload, using the Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) technology demonstrator (a modified MD 530F civil helicopter).

By November 2006, the ScanEagle UAV, jointly built by Boeing and Institu Inc., a pioneer in the unmanned air systems market, had logged more than 20,000 combat flight hours supporting U.S. Marine ground force missions in Iraq. On Sept. 9, 2008, Boeing acquired Insitu, and by 2009, ScanEagle had logged more than 100,000 operational flight hours. The same year, Boeing began work on an ultra long-endurance aircraft called the Vulture or Solar Eagle, which could keep its surveillance payload airborne for more than five years.

On May 22, 2006, Boeing delivered the first production Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) I System. This was the first of more than 24,000 such weapons and 2,000 carriages the Boeing SDB team would manufacture for the U.S. Air Force.

During 2009, Boeing won a $19.1 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for the Future Flexible Acquisition Tool (F2AST) program supporting the AC-130U Gunship, and the Missile Defense Agency awarded Boeing a $250 million contract to maintain ground-based midcourse defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. In addition, Boeing connected two additional F-15E Mission Training Centers (MTC) to the U.S. Air Force's Distributed Mission Operations Network, one at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and one at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. These two sites join the F-15E MTC at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. F-15E pilots at all three bases now train virtually with military aircraft pilots located around the world.

In 2009, Boeing demonstrated its ground robotics capabilities at the U.S. Army's first Robotics Rodeo, held in September at Fort Hood, Texas. Boeing Combat Systems participated with two Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) variants developed jointly by Boeing and iRobot Corp., the SUGV 320 used for reconnaissance and the SUGV 310 designed for explosive ordinance disposal. The SUGV 320 and 310 variants were dispersed to look for improvised explosive devices and survey the area for hostile forces, effectively navigating a landscape of exploded vehicles, buildings and other potential hazards.

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