AH-64D Longbow Block I (lots 1-6)
The Army's initial 284 AH-64Ds, encompassing Lots 1-6 of the remanufacturing program, were built in the original configuration now known as Block I. The first McDonnell Douglas Apache Longbow for the US Army made its maiden flight 17 March 1997. All AH-64A Apaches in the fleet were to be upgraded to the AH-64D configuration, 227 equipped with the FCR, and the remaining 531 without. Each attack helicopter company would receive three aircraft with FCRs and five without.
Three types of Army helicopters were expected to be retired before 2005, and aviation battalions were subsequently expected to be reorganized as part of the Army's 2000 Aviation Force Modernization Plan, which was unveiled in April 2000. Under the plan, AH-1 Cobras were divested by October 2001, and UH-1 Iroquois and A and C model OH-58 Kiowas retired by 2004. According to the plan, the UH-1s were to be replaced by UH-60 Black Hawks. The Cobras and Kiowas were to be replaced by AH-64D Apaches and eventually by RAH-66 Comanches, a planned reconnaissance and attack helicopter scheduled to begin joining the Army in 2008, which was later canceled. Later-model Kiowas were scheduled for retirement in fiscal year 2013, according to the plan.
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems (now Boeing) was under contract for the first 18 Longbow Apaches and delivered the first remanufactured Longbow Apache in March 1997. The Army and McDonnell Douglas agreed to a five-year, multi-year agreement that would give the Army 232 Longbow Apaches in the first five years of production. The multi-year purchase increased the Longbow Apache production rate in the first year to 24 aircraft and 232 for the five-year period. Under the multi-year contract, the Army would field two additional combat-ready Longbow Apache battalions. The contract also included funding for McDonnell Douglas to train pilots and maintenance personnel for the first two equipped units, development of interactive electronic technical manuals, development of training devices, first article testing of the production aircraft, initial spares, and a variety of program support tasks for the first production lot. The U.S. Army planned to remanufacture its entire AH-64A Apache fleet of more than 750 aircraft over a decade.
In November 2000 McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems, Mesa, Arizona, was awarded a $412,140,391 modification to firm-fixed-price multi-year contract DAAH23-00-C-0001, for the AH-64D Apache Longbow program. This obligation was for Lot 6 for 52 AH-64D Apache Longbows, peculiar ground support equipment, spares support, AH-64D Apache Longbow maintenance and operator training devices and long lead advance procurement for Lot 7 of the AH-64D Apache Longbow program. Work would be performed in Mesa, Arizona, and was expected to be completed by 30 September 2006. This was a sole source contract initiated on 1 March 1999. The US Army Aviation & Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, was the contracting activity.
As of early 2001 work was continuing in the negotiation of the second multiyear procurement contract for the Longbow Apache. The Army planned to procure another 269, which would bring the total to 501. Deliveries of the radar continued to close on the total of 227 FCRs. The Army was also in the process of selecting a contractor to develop the modernized TADS/PNVS.
The Army started fielding Lot 5 aircraft in April 2001. This completed MYI aircraft delivery. The Army had recently completed the final design review of the first MYII (Lot 6) Longbows and the first design review of the Lot 7 Longbows. The MYI and Lot 6 aircraft were the same configuration and would have the same software load. The MYII Lot 6 aircraft differed only in the internal components for some of the black boxes. These changes were made to correct obsolescence problems.
Fort Hood's 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) was responsible for receiving, equipping, fielding, training, evaluating and certifying all the Army's attack and cavalry aviation units, including the battalions which were scheduled to field the AH-64D Longbow Apache. Starting with 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation of Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division, all the units were non-deployable during the 204 days they were assigned to 21st Cavalry Brigade for the intense training process. All pilots received their initial training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, while the unit's maintainers received their training at Mesa and Fort Eustis, Virginia. The Unit Fielding and Training Program, designed by the brigade and approved by the Department of the Army, was created to build a battalion into a unit that is combat-ready with its new equipment. The battalion would then returns to its home station, ready to begin Mission Essential Task List training with its own higher headquarters. The fielding process then culminated in a battalion-level exercise and evaluation by the 21st Cavalry Brigade, and if all the requirements were met, the battalion would be certified combat ready and returned to its home station.
The Materiel Fielding Plan (MFP) was essentially a one-stop reference for all fielding activity requirements. It showed who developed, fielded, received, and stored a piece of equipment and its associated tools, test equipment, repair parts, and training devices. The MFP outlined what the piece of equipment was used for, who uses it, who repairs it, the maintenance and supply structure which would be in place to provide life cycle support, and the training requirements inherent to the system. Several draft version MFPs were published in order to generate a dialogue between the developer and the end user in order to simplify and expedite the fielding process.
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