Boeing has now produced more than 1200 of its fearsome US$20 million AH-64 multi-role attack helicopters, but with the first deliveries of the latest AH-64D Apache Block III this week, the capabilities of the 36 year old design have been lifted significantly.
The Block III Apache incorporates 26 new technologies, a vastly improved 3,400 shaft horsepower drive system with a split-torque face gear transmission, a new composite main rotor blade, an enhanced digital electronic control unit, better performance and more payload, which effectively equals either more range, or more firepower.
If the first 51 units produced under Low Rate Initial Production go well, the U.S. Army intends to buy another 640 units, with many military forces worldwide considering adding the rotorcraft to their fleets.
One of the most visually distinctive weapons of the modern battlefield, the AH-64 was the first aircraft to use the Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS) which apart from being entirely in keeping with the already menacing-looking helicopter, offers the pilot or co-pilot the ability to point the 30 mm automatic M230E1 Chain Gun wherever he/she looks, or to designate a target and let the Target Acquisition and Designation System (TADS) take over.
The all-hours, all-weather AH-64D Apache is deployed by more than a dozen countries including the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Greece, Kuwait and Egypt with several more likely to order AH-64D Apache Block IIIs in the coming year.
One of the many distinctive features of the AH-64D is its flexible weapons loadout which is carried on the rotorcraft's stub-wing pylons.