The Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight is a medium-lift tandem rotor transport helicopter, used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to provide all-weather, day-or-night assault transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment. Assault Support is its primary function, and the movement of supplies and equipment is secondary. Additional tasks include combat support, search and rescue, support for forward refueling and rearming points, CASEVAC and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP). The commercial version is the BV 107-II , commonly referred to as simply the "Vertol".
Piasecki Helicopter was a pioneering developer of tandem-rotor helicopters, with the most famous previous helicopter being the H-21 "Flying Banana". Piasecki Helicopter became Vertol in 1955 and work began on a new tandem rotor helicopter designated the Vertol Model 107 or V-107 in 1956. The V-107 prototype had two Lycoming T53 turboshaft engines, producing 877 shp (640 kW) each. The first flight of the V-107 took place on 22 April 1958. The V-107 was then put through a flight demonstration tour in the US and overseas. In June 1958, the US Army awarded a contract to Vertol for ten production aircraft designated "YHC-1A".
The order was later decreased to three, so the Army could divert funds to the V-114, also a turbine powered tandem, but larger than the V-107. The Army's three YHC-1As were powered by GE-T-58 engines. The YHC-1As first flew in August 1959, and were followed by an improved commercial/export model, the 107-II. During 1960, the US Marine Corps (USMC) evolved a requirement for a twin-turbine troop/cargo assault helicopter to replace the piston engine types then in use. Following a design competition, Boeing Vertol was selected to build its model 107M as the HRB-1, early in 1961. Boeing had acquired Vertol in 1960 and renamed the group Boeing Vertol.
The helicopter was first procured in 1961 to meet the medium-lift requirements of the Marine Corps. Its first flight in August 1962 was followed by a change in designation to CH-46A. Fleet introduction of CH-46As with the Marines and the Navy's UH-46As in November 1964. The UH-46A variant was modified for use in the vertical replenishment role. The CH-46A was equipped with a pair of T58-GE8-8B turboshaft engines rated at 1,250 shp (930 kW) each and could carry 17 passengers or 4,000 pounds (1,815 kg) of cargo.
Production of the improved CH-46D followed with deliveries beginning in 1966. Its improvements included modified rotor blades and more powerful T58-GE-10 turboshaft engines rated at 1,400 shp (1,040 kW) each. The increased power allowed the D-model to carry 25 troop or 7,000 pounds (3,180 kg) of cargo. Along with the USMC CH-46Ds, the Navy received a small number of UH-46Ds for ship resupply. Also, approximately 33 CH-46As were upgraded to CH-46Ds.
The Marines also received CH-46Fs from 1968 to 1971. The F-model retained the D-model's T58-GE-10 engines but revised the avionics and included other modifications. The CH-46F was the final production model. The Sea Knight has undergone upgrades and modifications. Most USMC Sea Knights were upgraded to CH-46E standard. The CH-46E features fiberglass rotor blades, airframe reinforcement, and further uprated T58-GE-16 engines producing 1,870 shp (1,390 kW) each. Some CH-46Es have been given doubled fuel capacity. The Dynamic Component Upgrade (DCU) incorporated starting in the mid-1990s provides for increased capabilities through strengthened drive systems and rotor controls.
The commercial variant, the BV 107-II , was first ordered by New York Airways in 1960. They took delivery of their first three aircraft, configured for 25 passengers, in July 1962. In 1965, Boeing Vertol sold the manufacturing rights of the 107 to Kawasaki Heavy Industries . Under this arrangement, all Model 107 civilian and military aircraft built in Japan are known as KV 107.
On 15 December 2006, Columbia Helicopters, Inc acquired the type certificate for the Boeing Vertol 107-II, and is in the process of acquiring a Production Certificate from the FAA. Plans for actual production of the aircraft have not been announced.
The CH-46 has tandem contrarotating rotors powered by two GE T58 turboshaft engines. The engines are mounted on each side of the rear rotor pedestal with a driveshaft to the forward rotor. The engines are coupled so either could power both rotors in an emergency. The rotors feature three blades and can be folded for on-ship operations.
The CH-46 has a cargo bay with a rear loading ramp that could be removed or left open in flight for extended cargo or for parachute drops. An internal winch is mounted in the forward cabin and can be used to pull external cargo on pallets into the aircraft via the ramp and rollers. A belly sling hook (cargo hook) which is usually rated at 10,000 lb (4,500 kg). could be attached for carrying external cargo. Although the hook is rated at 10,000 lb (4,500 kg), the limited power produced by the engines preclude the lifting of such weight. It usually has a crew of three, but can accommodate a larger crew depending on mission specifics. For example, a Search and Rescue variant will usually carry a crew of five (Pilot, Co-Pilot, Crew Chief, Swimmer, and Medic) to facilitate all aspects of such a mission. A pintle-mounted 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine gun is mounted on each side of the helicopter for self-defense. Service in southeast Asia resulted in the addition of armor with the guns
The CH-46 has fixed tricycle landing gear, with twin wheels on all three units. The gear configuration causes a nose-up stance to facilitate cargo loading and unloading. The main gear are fitted in rear sponsons that also contain fuel tanks with a total capacity of 350 US gallons (1,438 L).
Crew: 5: 2 pilots, 1 crew chief, 1 aerial gunner/observer, 1 tail gunner
Capacity: 25 troops
Length: 45 ft 8 in fuselage (13.92 m
Fuselage width: 7 ft 3 in (2.2 m))
Rotor diameter: 51 ft (16 m)
Height: 16 ft 8.5 in (5.1 m)
Disc area: 4,100 ft² (380 m²)
Empty weight : 15,537 lb (7,047 kg)
Loaded weight: 17,396 lb (7,891 kg) with armor, guns, and ammunition
Max. takeoff weight : 24,300 lb (11,000 kg)
Powerplant : 2 × General Electric T58-GE-16 turboshafts , 1,870 shp (1,400 kW) each
Maximum speed : 165 mph (145 kn ; 265 km/h)
Combat radius : 184 mi (160 nmi, 296 km)
Ferry range : 420 mi (360 nmi, 676 km)
Service ceiling : 14,000 ft (4,300 m)
Rate of climb : 2,045 ft/min (10.4 m/s)
Disc loading : 4.2 lb/ft² (21 kg/m²)
Power/mass : 0.215 hp /lb (354 W/kg)
Guns: 2× Door mounted GAU-15/A .50 BMG (12.7 x 99 mm) machine guns (optional), 1 Ramp mounted M240D 7.62 x 51 mm machine gun (optional)