The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter was developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) for the US armed forces. It entered service with the US Army in 1984 and has been exported to Egypt, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the UK.
The US Army has more than 800 Apaches in service, and more than 1,000 have been exported. The Apache was first used in combat in 1989 in the US military action in Panama. It was used in Operation Desert Storm and has supported low intensity and peacekeeping operations worldwide, including in Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.
The first Apache Longbow was delivered in April 1997 to the US Army.
AH-64D Longbow was deployed by the US Army in Afghanistan as part of Operation Anaconda in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and, from June 2003, in South Korea.
AH-64D Longbow is fitted with the Longbow millimetre wave fire control radar and the Longbow Hellfire missile. 501 AH-64A Apaches upgraded to AH-64D standard have been delivered to the US Army. Deliveries were completed in August 2006.
An additional 13 new-build Apaches were initially ordered, along with another 11 in November 2006. The US Army ordered 96 additional remanufactured helicopters in January 2007 and 18 new-build helicopters in April 2007.
During the same year, 30 AH-64Ds were ordered by the UAE. The first new-build AH-64D was delivered to the US Army in June 2007 and the first of the additional remanufactured helicopters in October 2007.
The US Army awarded a $247m contract to Boeing in October 2010 to start low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter. Boeing will produce 51 AH-64D Apache Block III helicopters for the US Army under the LRIP contract. The first AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter was delivered to the US Army in October 2011.
International Apache orders and deliveries
The Longbow has been ordered by the Netherlands (30 deliveries complete), Singapore (20 deliveries complete, first delivered in May 2002), Israel (designated ‘Seraph’ nine new, nine remanufactured, first delivered April 2005) and Egypt (35 remanufactured, deliveries completed in January 2007).
The Royal Netherlands Air Force received its first AH-64D Apache and first Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III aircraft in May 1998 and in May 2012 respectively.
A number of AH-64A helicopters have been upgraded to AH-64D standard for South Korea. A total of 30 UAE Apache helicopters are being upgraded to AH-64D Longbow standard, and deliveries began in May 2008. In June 2006, Saudi Arabia requested the upgrade of 12 Apaches to standard and, in September 2008, the sale of 12 new AH-64Ds. In October 2008, Taiwan requested the sale of 30 AH-64D Block III Apaches.
In August 2001, the AH-64D was selected by the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force with a requirement for 55 helicopters. The Apache for Japan is designated AH-64DJP and is armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles.
Kuwait ordered 16 AH-64D helicopters in September 2002. The first was delivered in February 2007. The Kuwaiti Apaches are equipped with BAE Systems HIDAS defensive aids system. In September 2003, Greece signed a contract for 12 (plus four options) AH-64D Longbow, also to be fitted with HIDAS. The first was delivered in January 2007.
In June 2011, Taiwan placed a $2.5bn order for 30 AH-64D Apache block III helicopters. The helicopters are scheduled to be delivered between 2013 and 2014.
AH-64A/D Apache upgrades
The first of the upgraded block II Apaches was delivered to the US Army in February 2003. Block II included upgrades to the digital communications systems of 96 A-model Apaches to improve communications within the ‘tactical internet’. In October 2007, Boeing delivered the first extended block II to the US Army.
In July 2005, the US Army awarded Boeing a development contract for block III improvements, which entered service in 2011. In December 2009, the maiden flight test of AH-64D Apache with block III structures was completed.
Block III includes increasing digitisation, the joint tactical radio system, enhanced engines and drive systems, the capability to control UAVs and new composite rotor blade. The new blades, which successfully completed flight testing in May 2004, increase the Apache’s cruise speed, climb rate and payload capability.
The block III system development and demonstration (SDD) contract was awarded to Boeing in July 2006. First flight of the Apache Block III was in July 2008. The US Army plans to upgrade all its Apache fleet to block III standard.
Science Engineering Services (SES) is a partner to Boeing in upgrading the AH-64D helicopters to the block III configuration. It will perform disassembly, inspection and repair of the AH-64D Apache helicopters.
The disassembly, inspection and repair works take place at the SES West Aviation and Integration Facility in Huntsville. The helicopters are then shipped to Boeing in Mesa, Arizona, for incorporating the AH-64D Apache block III.
In July 2012, Boeing received the first batch of ten new fuselages for block III production. The fuselages were delivered by the long-time supplier Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).
The first AH-64E Apache built in Mesa was delivered in October 2011. In April 2016, the US Army returned 117 AH-64 D models to be remanufactured as Apache AH-64E, under a $1.5bn contract.
In March 2017, a $3.4bn multi-year agreement was signed between the US Army and Boeing for 268 AH-64E Apaches.
The AH-64E Apaches are expected to replace Apache MK1 by 2022. The upgraded version of the helicopter will feature improved sensors and avionics to deliver improved performance.
WAH-64 Longbow Apache
A consortium of GKN Westland (now AgustaWestland), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Shorts bid a version of the Longbow Apache for the UK Army attack helicopter requirement which was selected in July 1995. Assembly of the WAH-64 Longbow Apache was carried out in the UK by AgustaWestland.
The first helicopter entered service in January 2001 designated as the AH mk1. A total of 67 helicopters have been delivered, with the last being formally handed over at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2004.
The initial operating capability was achieved in October 2004 and, in May 2005, the first of three Army Air Corps regiments of 18 helicopters was declared fully operational. The other two regiments are expected were fully operational by 2010. The AH mk1 helicopter has also been operated successfully on HMS Ocean helicopter carrier and, in November 2006, made a first landing on the Invincible Class aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal.
Boeing AH-64 Apache weapons
A 30mm automatic Boeing M230 chain gun is located under the fuselage. It provides a rate of fire of 625 rounds a minute. The helicopter has capacity for up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition.
AH-64D is armed with the Lockheed Martin / Boeing AGM-114D Longbow Hellfire air-to-surface missile, which has a millimetre wave seeker that allows the missile to perform in full fire and forget mode. Its range is 8km to 12km.
The Apache attack helicopter can be equipped with air-to-air missiles (Stinger, AIM-9 Sidewinder, Mistral and Sidearm) and the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), formerly known as Hydra, family of guided and unguided 70mm rockets. Plans to arm the Apache with the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) II, a laser-guided version of the Hydra, were shelved in the FY2008 budget. The US Army awarded BAE Systems a development contract for the APKWS II in April 2006.
British Army AH mk1 helicopters are armed with the CRV7 70mm rocket system from Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Longbow Apache carries the combination of armaments chosen for the particular mission. In the close support role, the helicopter carries 16 Hellfire missiles on four four-rail launchers and four air-to-air missiles.
Sensors of Apache attack helicopter
AH-64D Longbow Apache is equipped with the Northrop Grumman millimetre-wave Longbow radar. The Longbow fire control radar incorporates an integrated radar frequency interferometer for passive location and identification of radar-emitting threats. An advantage of the millimetre wave is that it performs under poor visibility conditions and is less sensitive to ground clutter. The short wavelength allows a very narrow beamwidth, which is resistant to countermeasures.
Longbow Apache can conduct an attack in 30 seconds. The radar dome is unmasked for a single radar scan and then remasked. Processors determine the location, speed and direction of travel of a maximum of 256 targets.
The target acquisition designation sight, TADS (AN/ASQ-170), and the pilot night vision sensor, PNVS (AN/AAQ-11), were developed by Lockheed Martin. The turret-mounted TADS provides direct-view optics, television and three-fields-of-view forward-looking infrared (FLIR) to carry out search, detection and recognition, and Litton laser rangefinder / designator. PNVS consists of a FLIR in a rotating turret located on the nose above the TADS. The image from the PNVS is displayed in the monocular eyepiece of the Honeywell integrated helmet and display sighting system (IHADSS), worn by the pilot and copilot / gunner.
Lockheed Martin has developed a new targeting and night vision system for the AH-64 Apache, using second-generation long-wave infrared sensors with improved range and resolution. The new system is called Arrowhead and has a targeting FLIR with three fields of view, a dual field-of-view pilotage FLIR, a CCD TV camera, electronic zoom, target tracker and auto-boresight.
Arrowhead entered production in December 2003 and the first unit was delivered to the US Army in May 2005. The first Arrowhead system was integrated to the Apache helicopter in June 2005. The 500th delivery was made in 2008 and the remaining deliveries were completed as scheduled. The US Army has also placed follow-on contracts for additional Arrowhead fittings to its Apache attack helicopter fleet, increasing the total number of Arrowhead integrations for the US Army.
A contract to equip the UK AH Mk1 helicopters with Arrowhead was placed in May 2005. The first two were delivered in November 2008 and deliveries concluded in 2010.
Apache AH-64A/D countermeasures
The Apache attack helicopter is equipped with an electronic warfare suite consisting of: AN/APR-39A(V) radar warning receiver from Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) and Lockheed Martin; Lockheed Martin AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometer Electronic Support target acquisition system; AN/ALQ-144 infra-red countermeasures set from BAE Systems IEWS (formerly Sanders, a Lockheed Martin company); AN/AVR-2 laser warning receiver from Goodrich (formerly Hughes Danbury Optical Systems then Raytheon); AN/ALQ-136(V) radar jammer developed by ITT; and chaff dispensers.
US Army AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters were to be fitted with the ITT AN/ALQ-211 SIRCM (suite of integrated radio frequency countermeasures) suite. However, the availability of funding for this project is uncertain.
UK AH mk1 Apaches are fitted with BAE Systems helicopter integrated defensive aids suite (HIDAS), also chosen by Kuwait and Greece. HIDAS, which includes the Sky Guardian 2000 radar warning receiver, entered service on the AH mk1 in July 2003.
Israeli AH-64D helicopters are fitted with the Elisra Seraph self-protection system, including SPS-65 missile warner and SPJ-40 radar jammer.
Dutch AH-64D helicopters are fitted with the Northrop Grumman directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) pod.
Apache attack helicopter engines
The Apache attack helicopter is equipped with two turboshaft engines, each providing 1,265kW. The American AH-64D has General Electric T700-GE-701 engines and the UK Apache is fitted with RTM322 engines from Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca.
AH-64 Apache performance
The Boeing AH-64 Apache can climb at a rate of 889m/min. The maximum and cruise speeds of the helicopter are 279km/h and 260km/h, respectively. The ferry range and service ceiling of the helicopter are 1,900km and 6,400m respectively. The endurance is three hours and nine minutes. The helicopter weighs around 5,165kg, while the maximum take-off weight is 10,433kg.
U.S. Army AH-64As are being converted to AH-64Ds. The service’s last AH-64A was taken out of service in July 2012 before conversion at Boeing’s facility in Mesa, Arizona. On 25 September 2012, Boeing received a $136.8M contract to remanufacture the last 16 AH-64As into the AH-64D Block II version and this was forecast to be completed by December 2013.
In 1991, after Operation Desert Storm, the AH-64B was a proposed upgrade to 254 AH-64As. The upgrade would have included new rotor blades, a Global Positioning System (GPS), improved navigation systems and new radios. U.S. Congress approved $82M to begin the Apache B upgrade. The B program was canceled in 1992. The radio, navigation, and GPS modifications were later installed on most A-model Apaches through other upgrades.
Additional funding from Congress in late 1991 resulted in a program to upgrade AH-64As to an AH-64B+ version. More funding changed the plan to upgrade to AH-64C. The C upgrade would include all changes to be included in the Longbow except for mast-mounted radar and newer −700C engine versions. However, the C designation was dropped after 1993. With AH-64As receiving the newer engine from 1990, the only difference between the C model and the radar-equipped D model was the radar, which could be moved from one aircraft to another; thus the decision was made to simply designate both versions “AH-64D”.
The AH-64D Apache Longbow is equipped with a glass cockpit and advanced sensors, the most noticeable of which being the AN/APG-78 Longbow millimeter-wave fire-control radar (FCR) target acquisition system and the Radar Frequency Interferometer (RFI), housed in a dome located above the main rotor. The radome’s raised position enables target detection while the helicopter is behind obstacles (e.g. terrain, trees or buildings). The AN/APG-78 is capable of simultaneously tracking up to 128 targets and engaging up to 16 at once; an attack can be initiated within 30 seconds. A radio modem integrated with the sensor suite allows data to be shared with ground units and other Apaches, allowing them to fire on targets detected by a single helicopter.
The aircraft is powered by a pair of uprated T700-GE-701C engines. The forward fuselage was expanded to accommodate new systems to improve survivability, navigation, and ‘tactical internet’ communications capabilities. In February 2003, the first Block II Apache was delivered to the U.S. Army, featuring digital communications upgrades. The Japanese Apache AH-64DJP variant is based on the AH-64D; it can be equipped with the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles for self-defense.
Formerly known as AH-64D Block III, in 2012, it was redesignated as AH-64E Guardian to represent its increased capabilities. The AH-64E features improved digital connectivity, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, more powerful T700-GE-701D engines with upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), full IFR capability, and improved landing gear. New composite rotor blades, which successfully completed testing in 2004, increase cruise speed, climb rate, and payload capacity. Deliveries began in November 2011. Full-rate production was approved on 24 October 2012, with 634 AH-64Ds to be upgraded to AH-64E standard and production of 56 new-build AH-64Es to start in 2019/20. Changes in production lots 4 through 6 shall include a cognitive decision aiding system and new self-diagnostic abilities. The updated Longbow radar has an oversea capacity, potentially enabling naval strikes; an AESA radar is under consideration. The E model is to be fit for maritime operations. The Army has expressed a desire to add extended-range fuel tanks to the AH-64E to further increase range and endurance. AH-64Es are to have the L-3 Communications MUM-TX datalink installed in place of two previous counterparts, communicating on C, D, L, and Ku frequency bands to transmit and receive data and video with all Army UAVs. Lots 5 and 6 will be equipped with Link 16 data-links. As of April 2020, 500 AH-64E have been delivered.
In 2014, Boeing conceptualized an Apache upgrade prior to the introduction of the U.S. Army’s anticipated attack version of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft, forecast to replace the Apache by 2040. The conceptual AH-64F would have greater speed via a new 3,000 shp turboshaft engine from the Improved Turbine Engine Program, retractable landing gear, stub wings to offload lift from the main rotor during cruise, and a tail rotor that can articulate 90 degrees to provide forward thrust. In October 2016, the Army revealed they would not pursue another Apache upgrade to focus on funding FVL; the Army will continue buying the Apache through the 2020s until Boeing’s production line ends in 2026, then FVL is slated to come online in 2030.
In October 2018, Boeing began testing the AH-64E Block 2 Compound, a compound helicopter design which added a larger fixed wing and a pusher propeller to the Apache airframe to provide additional lift and thrust, respectively. In addition, the engine exhaust was redirected downwards. Collectively, the modifications were anticipated to improve speed to 185 kn (343 km/h; 213 mph), range to 460 nmi (850 km; 530 mi), payload to 5,900 lb (2,700 kg), and fuel economy. A 30% scale model completed wind tunnel testing in January 2019. The Compound Apache has been pitched as an interim replacement for the Apache before its replacement under the Future Vertical Lift program.
During the 1980s naval versions of the AH-64A for the United States Marine Corps and Navy were examined. Multiple concepts were studied with altered landing gear arrangements, improved avionics and weapons. The USMC was very interested and conducted a two-week evaluation of the Apache in September 1981, including shipboard operation tests.
Funding for a naval version was not provided; the Marine Corps continued to use the AH-1. The Canadian Forces Maritime Command also examined a naval Apache. In 2004, British Army AgustaWestland Apaches were deployed upon the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean, a Landing Platform Helicopter, for suitability testing; there was U.S. interest in the trials.
During the 2011 military intervention in Libya, the British Army extensively used Apaches from HMS Ocean. In 2013, U.S. 36th Combat Aviation Brigade AH-64Ds were tested on a variety of U.S. Navy ships.
Several models have been derived from both AH-64A and AH-64D and AH-64E for export. The British-built AgustaWestland Apache (assembled from kits purchased from Boeing) is based on the AH-64D Block I with several different systems, including more powerful engines, folding rotor blades, and other modifications for operation from Royal Navy vessels.
While a major change in design or role will cause the type designator suffix to change, for example from AH-64D to AH-64E, the helicopters are also subject to block modification. Block modification is the combining of equipment changes into blocks of modification work orders, the modifications in the block (sometimes called a block package) are all done to the helicopter at the same time.
|Crew||2 (pilot, and co-pilot/gunner)|
|Length (rotors running)
||58 ft 2 in (17.73 m)|
|Height||12 ft 8 in (3.87 m)|
|Main rotor diameter||48 ft 0 in (14.63 m)|
|Loaded weight||17,650 lb (8,006 kg)|
|Maximum weight||23,000 lb (10,433 kg)|
|Empty weight||11,387 lb (5,165 kg)|
|Maximum speed (Vne)
||197 kn (227 mph, 365 km/h)|
|Cruising speed at sea level
||143 kn (165 mph, 265 km/h)|
|Ascent speed at sea level
|Ceiling in service
||20,000 ft (6,100 m)|
|Passable distance at sea level with standard reserve
||260 nmi (300 mi, 480 km)|
|Powerplant||2 × General Electric T701-GE-701 turboshaft engines, 1,890 shp (1,409 kW) each|
- Australian Army – In 2020, order 29 AH-64E Apache (view post).
- Egyptian Air Force – Egypt ordered 35 AH-64A Apache in 1995. In early 2001 it decided to upgrade to the AH-64D Apache version, starting deliveries of the helicopters remanufactured by Boeing in 2003 and ending at the end of 2006.
- Hellenic Army – 20 AH-64A Apache helicopters, which have subsequently been upgraded (AH-64A +). In September 2003, Greece signed a contract for the acquisition of 12 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to complement its fleet.
- Indian Air Force – 22 AH-64Es in inventory as of July 2020.
- Indian Army – 6 AH-64Es on order.
- Indonesian Army – 8 AH-64E.
- Israeli Air Force
- Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
- Kuwait Air Force – 16 AH-64D to be upgraded AH-64E and 8 AH-64E in order.
- Royal Netherlands Air Force
- Royal Moroccan Air Force – 24 AH-64E.
- Qatar Emiri Air Force
- Saudi Arabia
- Royal Saudi Land Forces
- Saudi Arabia National Guard
- Republic of Singapore Air Force
- Republic of Korea Army
- Republic of China Army (Taiwan) – ordered 30 AH-64D Block III helicopters, additional GE T700-401D engines, weaponry, and related systems for its Army under a $ 2.5 billion contract in 2008.
- UK Army – 50 AH-64D in active.
- United Arab Emirates Air Force –
- United States Army – 756 AH-64D/E.