By Luca Peruzzi
In production since 1984, the Apache AH-64 continues to evolve to meet latest operational requirements. With 16 customers, including the United States, Netherlands, Greece, the United Kingdom, Japan, India, Singapore, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, Boeing announced last June a contract for 24 AH-64E from Morocco, to be delivered from 2024. With over 2,500 helicopters manufactured since the programme launch, more than 4.6 million flight hours, of which over 1.3 logged in combat conditions, and a 92%+ mission combat readiness, the Apache continues to attract potential customers worldwide, with 10 countries expressing high interest in the combat helicopter, said Terry “TJ” Jamison, Director, Vertical Lift International Sales Global Sales & Marketing during the Pre-Virtual Farnborough Airshow Media Days conference call.
The current worldwide Apache fleet, of which 461 outside the US, accounts for 1,213 aircraft of which more than 508 in the AH-64E version, the latest in service with the US Army and international customers, he added providing an overview of latest platform developments and sale campaigns. Introduced into the fleet in 2012, the US Army Aviation’s AH-64E Reman programme is a complete remanufacture using a new airframe and meets all the Army and Joint interoperability goals for the future, adding significant combat capability while addressing obsolescence issues, ensuring the aircraft remains a viable combat multiplier beyond its lifecycle, according to the President’s Budget 2021 Army budget documentation.
The AH-64E Apache is implementing an incremental design and fielding strategy for both the US Army and international customers, which has seen enhancements introduced through ‘capability version’ standards. The latest being the ‘capability version 6’, which according to US Army documentation adds the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (MDSA) to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight, which increases the range at which aircrews can positively identify targets during daytime conditions, allowing for greater standoff engagements, integration of the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), the Cognitive Decision Aiding System to improve pilot situational awareness, a Data Correlation Engine to merge icons, and the Fire Detection and Expansion System to improve survivability in the event of onboard fire. The Version 6, according to the same documentation, also features improved and expanded Fire Control radar (FCR) capabilities by adding a maritime capability and expanding ranges of existing capabilities, updates to the Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometer (MRFI) to provide passive detection and geolocation of emitting radar threats, and expanded unmanned capabilities with the MUMT-X (Manned-UnManned Teaming – eXpanded), which increases interoperability control of unmanned platforms, in addition to improved Link-16 functionality, image blending, multi-mode laser (MML) and Interactive Electronics Technical Manual (IETM) upgrades.
During the conference call, TJ Jamison provided more details about the FCR enhancement, specifying that in addition to air-to-ground and air-to-ground search, identification and tracking modes, the Northrop Grumman APG-78 Longbow fire control radar, of which the 500th delivery was announced last June, adds a new air-to-sea capability to search, classify and identify maritime targets in addition, according to Northrop Grumman, to single target attack, 360-degree surveillance mode, as well as an extended detection range up to 16 km (vs current 8 km) against land, air and sea targets. The maritime mode and other enhancements are becoming important capabilities as more customers are using their rotary-wing platform in the same littoral and coastal environment.
Last May Boeing acknowledged the first recipient of the latest Version 6 AH-64E standard helicopters is an undisclosed international customer. Among the customers that received the AH-64E in the latest months the newest are Qatar and India. The latter accepted the helicopters between late-2019 and July2020, as confirmed by the manufacturer before the conference call. The 22 AH-64E delivered to the Asian country were all for the Indian Air Force, while a couple of months ago six additional aircraft in the same configuration of the Air Force were procured for the Indian Army, said TJ Jamison. Boeing is also working with India for the support package including training, added Mark Ballew, Director Global Services & Support – Global Sales & Marketing. Among the new customers, in addition to Morocco, Boeing also acknowledged another customer could come from the Pacific area, potentially becoming in the following 12 months the eighteenth Apache user.
Photo courtesy Boeing