The Arrow in Apache’s Quiver
In anticipation of the impending deal, the United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on 22 December, 2010 of a possible Foreign Military Sale ( FMS) to the Government of India of various engines, equipment, weapons, training, parts and logistical support for a possible Direct Commercial Sale of 22 AH-64D Block III Apache helicopters, which was the only contender ultimately short listed. The complete package is worth approximately $1.4 billion. The notification was made in advance so that, in the event that the AH-64D proposal was selected, the United States might move as quickly as possible to implement the sale. “The proposed sale is projected to contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the US- India strategic relationship and to improve the security of an important partner (India) which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace and economic progress in South Asia”, stated the release. The attack helicopters later referred to as AH-64E Guardian are set to enter Indian Air Force (IAF) service 2019 onwards.
“To decimate hostile armoured formations and enemy bunker and fortifications,” the package includes 812 Lockheed Martin AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire Anti- Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW) plus 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II ATGWs. The Hellfire name comes from its original role as a helicopter-launched fire and forget weapon. The AGM-114L-3, or Longbow Hellfire, is a fire and forget weapon equipped with a Millimetre Wave (MMW) radar seeker coupled with inertial guidance, enabling Lock on after Launch (LOAL) capability; very effective against hostile multiple rolling armour. The MMW radar also rectifies the inherent limitations of Semi-Active Laser Homing ( SALH) guidance system by providing capability in adverse weather and battlefield obscurants such as dust, smoke and fog being able to mask the position of the target or to prevent the designating laser from producing a detectable reflection. Besides autonomous homing on targets designated by the Longbow Fire Control system, the missile can also use advanced modes, currently being upgraded to the system, which provide home-in on active jammers that try to degrade or disable the missile. The missile will also receive advanced countermeasures to defeat and cancel jammers. The AGM- 114L- 3 Longbow Hellfire weighs 49-kg, including the 9-kg tandem shaped charge High Explosive AntiTank (HEAT) warhead, and has a range of 12-km against armoured formations and fortified installations. In the close support anti-armour role, the helicopter carries 16 AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire ATGW on four four-rail launchers plus 4 Stinger Block I-92H Air-to-Air Missiles (AAM) for self-protection.
For effective fire control and optimum utilisation of AGM- 114L- 3 Longbow Hellfire, the AH-64D ‘Longbow Apache’ is equipped with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 millimetre-wave Fire Control Radar (FCR) capable of performing under poor-visibility conditions, less sensitive to ground clutter, while the short wavelength allows a very narrow beam width, which is resistant to Electronic Counter Measures ( ECM). AN/ APG- 78 additionally, incorporates an integrated AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometer for passive location and identification of radar-emitting threats. The Longbow Apache can execute an attack in 30-seconds while remaining behind natural terrain if necessary with the radar dome atop the rotor blades unmasked for a single radar scan and then remasked, enabling the processors determine the location, speed and direction of travel of a maximum of 256 targets.
Complementing the AGM- 114L- 3 Longbow Hellfire will be the multi-purpose 8-km range AGM-114R or ‘Romeo’ that uses a Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH) guidance system and an integrated blast fragmentation sleeve (IBFS) warhead likely built around tandem shaped charge HEAT to engage targets that previously needed multiple Hellfire variants. Hellfire II locks on before or after launch and can engage multiple targets simultaneously. The missile uses trajectory shaping to enable optimal performance in degraded weather along with automatic target reacquisition after loss of track in low clouds. The digital autopilot can be reprogrammed in flight, to home in on new targets in when employed in a LOAL mode. Equipped with electro-optical countermeasures hardening, the missile is capable of operating with pulsed radar frequency or A-Code laser codes for those aircraft equipped with dual code capability. AGM-114R weighs 50-kg and travels at a speed of Mach 1.3. Laser guidance can be provided either from the launcher, such as the nose-mounted opto-electronics of the AH- 64 Apache attack helicopter, other airborne target designators or from ground based observers, the latter two options allowing the launcher to break line of sight with the target and seek cover.
Lockheed Martin has developed the ‘ Arrowhead’ targeting and night vision system for the Apache, using secondgeneration long-wave Infra Red (IR) sensors with improved range and resolution, and has a targeting Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) with three fields of view, a dual field-of-view FLIR, a Charged Coupled Device (CCD) TV camera, electronic zoom, target tracker and auto-boresight.
US Army’s AH-64D Longbow Apache, the type soon in ‘Indian’ colours