AH-64 Apache: The Best Attack Helicopter Ever?

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The U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopter was originally a 1980s platform, yet upgrades to the Apache have made it an almost entirely new platform, well suited for a modern threat environment.

The U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopter was originally a 1980s platform, yet upgrades to the Apache have made it an almost entirely new platform well suited for a modern threat environment.

Apache pilots in Afghanistan spent many years flying upgraded AH-64E-model helicopters, which give the platform increased speed and performance.

In development for many years and now part of the operational force, the AH-64E models use a stronger 701D helicopter engine, composite rotor blades, and next-generation communications technology and avionics.

Army Apache pilots in Afghanistan also helped pioneer the early applications of manned-unmanned teaming wherein crews could control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft.

Helicopter pilots explained that this ability was paradigm-changing in that it enabled them to see targets and understand attack specifics before even taking off for a mission.

All branches of service now implement many of the cutting-edge manned-unmanned teaming tactics and technologies first used with Apache and Kiowa helicopter crews in Afghanistan.

Apache & FARA fly together

Many senior Army weapons developers and innovators believe an upgraded Apache is critical to the long-term readiness of Army aviation combat power, despite the fact that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Apache-type replacement program is progressing.

It is unclear how long it will be until impactful numbers of new FARA aircraft are operational in the Army, therefore the service likely sees a need to sustain and upgrade its E-model Apache.

The ‘E” model is able to transport a larger amount of ammunition and fuel in what is described as “high-hot” conditions at altitudes of 6,000 feet and temperatures of 95 degrees or above.

The innovations built into the “E” model give the helicopter all of the technological advantages of its predecessor “D” model – yet at a lighter weight, making it more maneuverable and effective. The AH-64E Apache is also 20 knots faster than the previous model and can reach 164 knots.

Improvements on Each Variant

The current “D” model Longbow Apache is heavier than the original “A” model helicopter; it carries the Longbow radar and significantly improved targeting and sensing technologies, however, it lacks the transmission-to-power ratio and hard-landing ability of the initial “A” model.

The AH-64E is engineered such that an advanced, high-tech aircraft the weight of the previous “D” model can have the power, performance, and landing abilities of an original “A” model with a much lighter weight.

The AH-64E can destroy armor, personnel, and material targets in obscured battlefield conditions at ranges out to 8 kilometers, an Army statement said.

The “E” model also keeps the millimeter wave fire control, radar frequency interferometer, and targeting sensors engineered into the previous Apache version, an Army statement from several years ago said.

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