The AH-64E Guardian replaces the AH-64D "Longbow" and integrates more powerful engines, improved rotor blade technology and advanced electronics. The Defense Acquisition Board decision regarding full-rate production for the Apache Block III helicopter program announced 24 October 2012 also approved re-designating the Apache Block III as the AH-64E model. The new AH-64E Apache returns all the power margins lost as a result of adding more than a decade's worth of critical mission equipment packages, which made the aircraft heavier over time. The Guardian is the first Army rotorcraft capable of hovering at 6,000 feet with a full mission payload. The increased power gives pilots more control in high-altitude areas of operation.
The newest model of the heavily-armed, twin engine helicopter replaces the AH-64D "Longbow" model and integrates several new technologies such as more powerful, fuel-efficient engines, improved rotor blade technology and advanced electronics. The upgrades significantly increase aircraft reliability and sustainability by improving the Apache's range, performance, and maneuverability. The AH-64E provides an increased lethality and is a definite game changer on the battlefield. It will certainly increase the brigade's capability to accomplish a variety of missions.
The AH-64E Guardian is the most recent "platform" of the Army's Apache attack helicopter, which means its systems are the most technically-advanced version available to the U.S. Army. In addition to being stronger than its predecessor, the AH-64E is faster and less constrained in extreme combat conditions. It has a combat speed of around 189 mph, about 23 mph faster than the Longbow. The Guardian will also turn faster and tighter, making it significantly more difficult for the enemy to outmaneuver the aircraft. The AH-64E can even operate unmanned aerial vehicles/systems remotely.
AH-64E pilots have the option to control nearby Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. They can view UAV camera feeds, adjust their flight path and launch missiles at targets spotted by the UAV. With its latest improvements, the AH-64E Guardian more efficiently operates as a safeguard for soldiers on the ground. It has the ability to seek and eliminate threats that would otherwise be undetectable and/or indestructible from the ground, allowing units below to complete their missions.
The Defense Acquisition Board decision regarding full-rate production for the Apache Block III helicopter program was announced 24 October 2012, by Army officials at a briefing in Washington, DC. Additionally, Apache project manager Col. Jeffrey Hager confirmed that the Apache Block III was being re-designated as an AH-64E model. According to the Apache Project Office, the Defense Acquisition Board, or DAB, granted approval for full-rate production, or FRP, in August and the Air Force communicated the model designation change in a September 2012 memo to the Army. Actions were under way to begin implementation of the E model designation for subsequent use by the military and industry.
"The DAB's decision really secured Apache production for the next several years," Hager said. "We've got fiscal requirements, but securing that production through a full-rate production decision was just huge for this program. It's probably the single largest decision that we've had since Block I's and Block II's went into production. It's that monumental."
One of the other key components, Hager said, that resulted in the DAB decision is the fact that the Block III had been designated an ACAT C program. "We're no longer a D program and therefore don't need DOD oversight. Our Army acquisition executive, Ms. Heidi Shyu, is in charge of the Apache program and the development production that we have for Block III as we go forward from this point. So that was a big designation for us," Hager said.
The designation of the E model, he added, accurately recognizes the aircraft's advancements including an Improved Drive System, increased engine capabilities, technologically advanced composite main rotor blades and sensor enhancements. "At the end of the day, the only real measure of how well a system is performing falls to the user and how easy or difficult the aircraft is to maintain," said Col. John Lynch, Attack/Reconnaissance TRADOC capabilities manager. "Basically, the Block III exceeded expectations that were laid out on the sustainment side."
The improved drive system of the AH-64E provides the pilot with an exceptional power margin between power required and power available, and is capable of carrying 2,500 pounds more than its predecessor, the AH-64D Model. This translates into a safety margin for the crew and increased combat capabilities for the ground force commander. The E Model can take more fuel and ammo to the fight, get there faster, and stay there longer.
Upgrades to the aircraft over previous models include advanced rotor blades and significantly increased aircraft handling, performance and agility at higher altitudes. Situational awareness is enhanced with electro-optical and infrared sensors for the operational benefit of aviators and battlefield commanders.
First delivered in October 2011, Apache Block III helicopters are in production at the Boeing Company in Mesa, Ariz. Since January 2013, 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, nicknamed Tiger Sharks, has received eight of the "Echo" model Apaches and was scheduled to complete its fielding by the end of April 2013 with a total of 24. The 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, the Army's first unit equipped with AH-64Es, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McCord with their AH-64Es in March 2014to Afghanistan.
The Echo model has already proved its worth. As good as the AH-64D is as the world's premier attack helicopter, the AH-64E has proven even better during home station training, FOT&E, as well deployed to Afghanistan providing increased capabilities for the supported maneuver unit.
The AH-64E Lot 4 capability enhancements, scheduled for delivery in 2017, include external crashworthy fuel tanks and software upgrades. The bulk of the capability, though, comes with the integration of the Link 16 tactical data link. Link 16, a secure joint, wireless network-in-the-sky, allows AH-64E crews to disseminate critical information in real time to other aircraft, as well as ground and maritime platforms.
All of these Lot 4 capabilities are in addition to the already fielded Lot 1-3 AH-64E models, which have improved digital connectivity, enhanced communication systems, more powerful engines, an upgraded transmission to accommodate the increase in power, capability to control unmanned aircraft systems, new composite main rotor blades and a fully instrumented flight rules qualified aircraft.
Foreign Military Sales
- The Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced in April 2013 it will purchase 36 U.S. Army Apache (AH-64E) helicopters through Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The value of this FMS is estimated at $1.6 billion.
- In a first-of-its-kind deal worth about $500 million, the United States has agreed to sell eight new Apache Block III AH-64E attack helicopters and Longbow radars to Indonesia, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said 26 August 2013.
- On 27 January 2014 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $4.8 billion.
- The first six of 30 Boeing AH-64E Apache “Guardian” attack helicopters ordered from the US were delivered in December 2013 under the Tian Ying, or “Sky Eagle” program. Taiwan was the first international customer for the Guardian model, which attained initial operating capability (IOC) in the US Army in November 2013.
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