Iraqi, Afghan Operations Prompt US Army Order for More AH-64D Apache Ammunition
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in Minneapolis, MN received an $86 million base-with-option contract to provide lightweight (LW) 30mm M789 High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) tactical ammunition for the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter. The U.S. Army Contracting Command’s Rock Island Contracting Center in Rock Island, IL manages the contract. Alliant expects to begin production in December 2009 at the company’s facilities in Elk River, MN; Radford, VA; and Rocket Center, WV.
The AH-64D Apache attack helicopter has been going through Block III improvements that are incorporating 25 technology insertions as part of the Army’s future force plan. “Apache Block III Program: The Once and Future Attack Helicopter” has more on the Block III improvements.
In a September 2008 letter justifying the use of ATK as the sole supplier of LW30mm M789 HEDP ammunition, the US Department of the Army said that the depletion of stocks from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan prompted the order. There are several reasons that this weapon has been so popular…
In a Sept 10/08 letter, the Department of the Army’s Senior Procurement Executive laid out the case for using ATK as the sole supplier for the LW30mm M789 HEDP ammunition. The justification pertained to a contract for 607,248 cartridges in the contract base year of FY 2009, with 2 option years of FY 2010 and FY 2011 for the purchase of an additional 100,000 rounds per year.
In its justification, the Army said:
“ATK is currently the sole manufacturer of the M789 HEDP catridge. The M789 catridge is not commercially available due to the specialized skills, equipment and facilities needed to manufacturer and test the cartridge, which are not available in the commercial section. As the current producer of the M789 cartridge, ATK possesses these specialized skills, equipment and facilities…
Operation Iraqi Freedom, coupled with continuing anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, have resulted in increased expenditures of M789 ammunition…The customer requires delivery beginning in Mar 2010.”
One reason for that level of usage is the fact that the AH-64’s 30mm canon fire remains the most accurate air support option in the military’s arsenal, and also delivers the lowest amount of collateral damage when used. Gen. McChrystal’s revised approach encompasses many aspects, not least of which is the often-overlooked area of troop rotations and area familiarity. The most public aspect of his new policy, however, has been the new directive that calls for troops to weigh air strikes carefully, and avoid them if civilian lives are at risk and U.S. troops can safely employ other options to protect themselves.
The Apache’s 30mm ammunition was already the helicopter’s most popular weapon,, and that trend extended to foreign fleets as well. Given Gen. McChrystal’s directive, the use of 30mm cannon ammunition in Afghanistan might even be set to increase.