The MH-47G Chinook helicopter fleet, one of the most important aviation assets of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), is getting a new countermeasure system aimed at improving its survivability on the battlefield.

More specifically, the MH-47Gs are being outfitted with the AN/AAQ-24 LAIRCM. This enhancement is a Directional Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) system that tracks and directs energy from incoming heat-seeking missiles. According to Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the LAIRCM, the device can track and defeat simultaneous threats by jamming their IR sensors, among other things.

The LAIRCM system is mounted on the rear of the fuselage.

The new system (Image courtesy of Bill Shemley.)

The MH-47G is the heavy workhorse of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). It is predominately used for heavy-lift missions. The unit also flies the MH-60 Blackhawk (numerous versions) and the MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird.

Created after the Desert One debacle, when a hotchpotch Special Operations task force was put together to rescue the American hostages held by the Iranian regime, the 160th SOAR is arguably the best rotary-wing unit in the world.

The MH-47G is powered by two Honeywell T55-GA-714A engines. Together, the two engines can produce approximately 7,000 kilowatts or 9,387 horsepower (on average, family cars have 150 horsepower) and a maximum speed of 315 kilometers per hour. The Honeywells are fitted with infrared (IR) exhaust suppressors to minimize the helicopter’s IR signature, thereby making it a harder target to hit.

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The standard weapons loadout of the MH-47G is a couple of M134 7.62mm Miniguns and two M240 7.62mm machine guns. The Miniguns are positioned on both sides of the fuselage and just behind the cockpit.

The MH-47G has a maximum operational radius of 630 kilometers; how far the helicopter can practically go, however, depends on numerous factors, such as altitude or number of troops or equipment carried.

Last summer, SOCOM purchased an additional seven MH-47Gs from Boeing. The 160th has approximately 70 MH-47Gs.

Chinooks have been involved in the two greatest single loss of life incidents in the Special Operations community. During Operation Red Wings, an MH-47, call sign Turbine 33, went down after a Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) hit its fuselage. All onboard (the 160th SOAR crew and a Navy SEAL quick-reaction force) were killed. The second instance took place in August 2011, when a CH-47 Chinook (the conventional version of the helicopter), was shot from the sky by an RPG. Again, all on onboard (the crew and numerous SEAL Team 6 Gold Squadron operators) were killed.