Imagine the need to carry out a special operation off the coast of Somalia, with the need to include a detachment of raiders in hostile territory.
An Italian boat has been seized by a group of Somali pirates and the safety of the crew is in serious danger. It is necessary, therefore, to bring in special forces with their equipment, thousands of kilometers away from Italy.
According to the acquisition programs issued by the Defense, up until 2018, the operation just mentioned could have been carried out in the near future with the use of the Boeing CH-47F ER (Extended Range) helicopter.
The ER version of the CH-47 has considerable advantages compared to the CH-47F version, in fact, it has adoubled flight range and can carry more 2.000 kg in weight.
In contrast, operational tests to which the CH-47F was subjected in configuration combat - including the installation of weapon systems, BPS (Ballistic Protection System), and auxiliary internal tanks (necessary to carry out national contingency operations such as evacuations of compatriots in the “enlarged Mediterranean”) - highlighted of the limits.
The ICH-47F version, currently included in the 1 ° AvEs regiment Antares of Viterbo, fails to meet the operational need for the transportation of high loads (operational detachments of special forces with related equipment and tactical means) at great distances (unfortunately it was not possible to install a probe for refueling in flight), precisely because of the presence, in the load compartment, of auxiliary tanks, which are essential to increase flight autonomy.
The installation of these tanks, together with the other protective equipment - combined with the reduced maximum take-off weight, compared to the ER version - significantly limits the transportable payload, both in terms of volume and weight.
However, in the latest Multi-year Programming Document of the Ministry of Defense, for the three-year period 2019-2021, the entry about the acquisition of four CH-47F ER helicopters (to be assigned to the 3 ° REOS Aldebaran of Viterbo) for the support to special operations has disappeared.
A platform of this kind appears indispensable, if it were necessary to carry out special operations - starting from the national territory - in those places that are of strategic importance for Italy, such as Libya.
We would not like that, in the event of having to urgently evacuate our contingent at Misrata (which is from the national territory 225 nautical miles), we were only in the possibility of using the CH-47F, which have an autonomy of only 250 miles with the ability to embark 25 people, of which 18 seats. While the ER version has a range of 585 nautical miles and the possibility of embarking on 55 passengers all seated (it should also be noted that the ER version, compared to the CH-47F, is equipped with an improved and upgraded electrical system, designed to withstand any failures system, even in long-term missions, as well as a new fuel management system).
The ER version, therefore, would be able to cover the entire round-trip section, approximately 450 nautical miles (thanks to the in-flight refueling probe, autonomy becomes unlimited), while maintaining a wide operating and safety margin ( in addition to the possibility of remaining in the area for around 30 minutes, in order to meet any operational requirements), without having to use any additional tanks, and having the possibility of evacuating, simultaneously, 55 people.
There is no doubt that creating and training special departments involves a high cost for a state, so it is essential to provide them with the means to operate in high-intensity environments.
At this point, all that remains is to wait for the next (now imminent) Executive, hoping that it is more sensitive to the needs of a sector (the Special Forces) that certainly constitute a strategic asset for the Nation.
Photo: US Army / US Air Force