Apache: Most po­tent at­tack heli­copter


The avatar of the ven­er­a­ble Apache that the In­dian Air Force has cho­sen – the AH-64D Apache Block III – as the win­ner in its 22 copter bid, is per­haps the most po­tent at­tack heli­copter in the world to­day. While it is un­clear how many of the 22 plat­forms will come with the Long­bow sen­sor sys­tem, the US Army cur­rently has one Long­bow in ev­ery three Apaches. The Block III air­craft that has won the IAF com­pe­ti­tion has been de­signed for in­creased flight per­for­mance – this in­volves a new air­frame, an im­proved drive sys­tem, a 701D en­gine with an en­hanced dig­i­tal en­gine con­trol unit and, sig­nif­i­cantly, an up­graded main ro­tor with all com­pos­ite ro­tor-blades. Boe­ing has also in­fused im­proved si­t­u­a­tional aware­ness through a cog­ni­tive de­ci­sion­aid­ing sys­tem for pi­lots, al­low­ing them to maker quicker de­ci­sions more eas­ily. Im­proved sur­viv­abil­ity, tar­get­ing and frat­ri­cide preven­tion – cru­cial for a hot bat­tle­field sce­nario – get a ramp up with in­te­grated air­craft sur­viv­abil­ity equip­ment, in­stru­ment flight rules and me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions. The Block III is a notably lighter heli­copter than its pre­vi­ous avatars – for in­stance in the Block III, a sin­gle mis- sion com­puter re­places three sep­a­rate sys­tems on ear­lier models. The Block III also comes with ad­di­tional fuel tanks, an in­te­grated hel­met and dis­play sight sys­tem with an elec­tro­mag­netic tracker. The Block III’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion suite has also been vastly im­proved with an en­hanced data mo­dem. A sub­tle, yet sig­nif­i­cant change, is also the for­ward avion­ics bay. Cer­tain equip­ment that is likely to be withheld as a re­sult of In­dia not be­ing a sig­na­tory to a CISMOA agree­ment with Washington will be re­placed with In­dian sys­tems man­u­fac­tured by BEL and cer­tain pri­vate com­pa­nies – some of th­ese sys­tems are in the process of be­ing iden­ti­fied.

The Apache legacy is a for­mi­da­ble one. As of June 2012, the plat­form in its many vari­ants has flown over 3.5 mil­lion hours over 28 years and spent 9,30,000 com­bat hours in on­go­ing op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan and Iraq – miss­ing that in­clude com­bat air pa­trol, con­voy es­cort, rapid re­ac­tion, close-com­bat at­tack and armed re­con­nais­sance. The US Army has an ac­qui­si­tion ob­jec­tive of 690 of the AH-64D Apache Block III , adding to 678 re­man­u­fac­tured air­craft and 54 new build air­craft in the Block I and Block II con­fig­u­ra­tions. There are 11 in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers for the Apache, with Boe­ing iden­ti­fy­ing “sig­nif­i­cant on­go­ing in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est for new and re­man­u­fac­tured AH-64Ds.”

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