What’s inside the AH-64E Apache for India?
The AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopter that India has contracted 22 of is possibly the world’s most advanced helicopter of its kind. The re-designated AH-64D Block III will arrive in an unspecified mix of Longbow and non-Longbow configurations and will form two helicopter units within the Indian Air Force (IAF). The stand-out features of the Block III as compared to earlier variants of the legendary platform include an all composite rotor (with a 6-inch extension), which provides a life-saving increased hover out of ground effect (HOGE) capability. The IAF has been shown that this principally translates into a 540 lbs higher payload carrying capability during HOGE. Sporting unprecedented blade tip erosion protection, the composite blades come with increase reliability of 10,000 calculated fatigue life and a 4,000 MTBR—all qualities crucial to the IAF.
The AH-64E is a modernised target acquisition and designation system (MTADS) that includes a day/night sight and laser designator. Its pilot night vision sensor has a helmet-mounted infrared view with full pilot symbology—gear so far never used by Indian chopper pilots. The Block III, of course, comes with a full in-flight refuelling capability – the Apaches will be refuellable even from the IAF’s C-130Js if necessary. Crashworthy external fuel tanks beef up the Block III’s endurance and time on operation in addition to auxiliary internal fuel tank. This internal fuel tank replaces a 1,200 round ammo pack with an additional 100 gallons of fuel and 300 rounds of 30mm for the M230 chain gun. Add to that range some extended brute force: four wing-mounted weapon stations for up to 16 Hellfire missiles, up to 76 rockets and the capability to add laser designated rockets too.
The AH-54E that India will induct sports a combat mission speed of 164 knots and combat range of 260 nautical miles. It has a combat endurance of 2.5 hours. Crucial to the new ‘E’ is an improved, souped up engine. The T700-GE-701D engines now sport an enhanced digital electronic control unit (EDECU), which brings with it improved system reliability and reduced operating costs. The new arrangement is dual engine contingency capable and brings increased power at 35 degrees Celsius. A new firewall data cable is incorporated, while engine indications are now multiplex signals. A significantly improved hot and high performance as a result of the rejigged engine assembly means the helicopter’s performance could be well-tuned for tropical clime operations. The split torque face gear transmission is the heart of a hugely improved drive system on the E variant of the Apache. Apart from contributing to the boosted hot and high performance, it also brings with it an increased power capability to 3,500 shaft HP and a reliability jump of a meaty 130 per cent. An improved nose gear-