AH-64E Apache Block III: Guardians of the Battlefield
Feb 23/15: Governors gripe about plan to take Apaches from Reserve units. As was predicted, the governors, through their collective lobby group, are
complaining about the Army plan to move National Guard Apaches over to active service Army units. The argument focuses on the fact that Apaches have been used for domestic emergency management (lightly). Governors’ influence on congressional delegations should not be underestimated.
Feb 13/15: More support. Lockheed wins an $82 million contract for AH-64 Apache sustainment; the third and last possible exercising of one-year optional extensions of the original $111 million contract.
Oct 31/14: Support. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives an unfinalized $121.2 million firm fixed-price, contract, covering performance based logistics for AH-64D/E components services and supplies. $90.9 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army budgets.
Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/15. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 offer received (W58RGZ-15-C-0017).
Oct 19/14: Taiwan. Taiwan receives the last 6 helicopters, completing delivery of the 30 it ordered under the TWD 59.31 billion ($1.95 billion) contract. It now has 29 available for service, after an April 2014 crash-landing on a residential roof. For full coverage, see DID, “Taiwan’s Force Modernization: The American Side”.
Oct 14/14: Maritime upgrade. Apache program manager Col. Jeff Hager says that the Army intends to upgrade the AH-64E’s Longbow radar, “to pick up things in a littoral (shallow water) environment and detect small ships in the water.” The changes would be part of Lot 6 enhancements, and testing of this feature is planned for 2017.
Some use of Apaches is already underway (q.v. July 19/14) in the USA’s own semi-shift to the Pacific theater, and there’s also ample precedent in Britain’s use of AH-64Ds from helicopter carriers during Libyan operations. Not to mention likely demand from new customers like Indonesia and Qatar, whose land-based responsibilities have an intrinsic maritime component.
Meanwhile, American forces are going to run into a difficult problem: the USMC is short of amphibious ships to train its own AH-1 Super Cobra attack helicopters, let alone Army AH-64Es. Sources: AIN, “Maritime Mode Radar Planned for Army’s AH-64E Apache” | DoD Buzz, “Army Configures Apaches for Sea Duty” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “AUSA 2014: US Army preps Apaches for sea-basing”.
Oct 12/14: Iraq. Iraq may have declined its opportunity to buy AH-64s (q.v. Oct 1/14), but they’re playing a key role anyway:
“The top U.S. military officer [Gen. Martin Dempsey] says the U.S. called in Apache helicopters to prevent Iraqi forces from being overrun by Islamic State militants in a recent fight near Baghdad’s airport.”
AH-64E Apache Guardians are conducting operations with the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush [CVN 77]. Sources: Defense News, “Dempsey: U.S. used Apache helos near Baghdad”.
June 25/14: Upgrades. Apache PEO Col. Hager discusses pending Lot 4 enhancements:
“…includes the fitting of external crash-worthy fuel tanks and software improvements to the aircraft’s missions systems…. “The Link 16 enables the Apache to receive information from the command-and-control platforms, such as the [Airborne Early Warning and Control System] AWACS and [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] JSTARS, and enables it to share this data with all the other services, making it more efficient at locating and prosecuting targets…”
E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS are good intermediaries for sharing data with UAVs outside the Apache’s own radius of UTA control. Link-16 would also let AH-64Es receive information from fighter jets performing close support duties, or send it to those in the vicinity. That’s a big and significant change. With respect to changes already visible in the AH-64E:
“While previously medical evacuation Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters had had to fly slower than they were capable of so as not to outpace their Apache escorts, the AH-64E is able to match the Chinook for speed and altitude in Afghanistan. In addition, the AH-64E’s improved sustainability means that it is being flown at a higher rate of operations that AH-64Ds in theatre.”
Sources: IHS Jane’s International Defence Review , “US Army to begin operational trials of AH-64E Lot 4 enhancements”.
The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.
The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.
The AH-64 Apache Program: Sunset, Sunrise
The AH-64E Apache Guardian
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2008 – 2010
FY 2007 and Earlier
Appendix A: Apache’s (Re) Production History
Background: AH-64 Apache
Background: Ancillary Equipment
News & Views
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