U.S. ARMY APACHE
501+EBII+(EBII+NG1/2/3)+WRA = A formula for success
By Carole Thompson
Bob Ferguson Photo
Understanding the intricacies of contract agreements and production scheduling, and coordinating customer deliveries are just a part of the challenges met by Boeing program managers. Working in a world of alphabet soup acronyms, the clear objective is to satisfy the customer with on time and on cost delivery of a quality product that meets – and exceeds – expectations. Just look at what it takes to keep Apache production moving ahead smoothly.
The AH-64D Apache Extended Block II program is known as EB II. It was originally introduced to simply bridge the gap between the end of the Multi-Year II program in 2007 and the start of the Apache Block III program production.
That was the plan. Of course, plans change.
"Delivering aircraft that can fulfill the demanding requirements of aviators, meet the strategic objectives of battlefield commanders, and endure the often harsh conditions of deployments is a point of pride for Boeing teammates and Team Apache," said David Almond, Boeing manager of Apache Block II program. "There are lots of details and numbers to be managed, and it's remembering that the soldiers are our number one priority as we work together to ensure that our Apache keeps the promises we've made."
Consider the situation, more appropriately characterized as a moving train. In December 2006, the U.S. Army awarded The Boeing Company a contract for 36 Apache remanufactured aircraft with options for another lot of 36 aircraft and a final award of the last 24 for a total of 96 aircraft to be delivered by May 2010 when the Apache Block III Low Rate Initial Production was scheduled to begin. What started out as a bridge program for 36 aircraft has grown to a 189- aircraft remanufacture program. Keeping tabs of that moving train falls to Apache program managers and their teams of experts.
At the end of 2009, the U.S. Army had approximately 90 A-model Apaches in the fleet. The Army's focus is to have a consistent configuration in the field. The decision by Army leadership: remanufacture the remaining AH-64A aircraft into Block II aircraft.
Enter more alphabet soup. EBII was being extended, with the addition of more aircraft. Call it "EBII+" for short.
The Army has already awarded EBII+ 8 aircraft and the long-lead for EBII+ 13 aircraft, and in mid 2009 the Army awarded, via Undefinitized Contract Action, an additional 48 aircraft for the Army National Guard – battalions one and two. This brought the total award through the end of 2009, including the original 96 aircraft, to 165 EBII aircraft with production until March 2012.
At publication deadline in late 2009, the Army was expected to have awarded a contract for another 12 remanufactured EBII aircraft. The last National Guard (NG3B) award is expected in late 2010 for a final 12 aircraft, extending Apache Block II production until early 2013.
In the midst of the additional remanufactured aircraft, the Army has awarded new-build AH-64Ds totaling 52 Wartime Replacement Aircraft (WRA). At publication deadline in late 2009, the Army was expected to award an additional 12 WRA helicopters from Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental funding. And then, there remains the possibility of additional WRA aircraft to be awarded in Fiscal Year 2010.
Boeing will then be on contract for an estimated 68 new-build D-model aircraft.
Bottom line: Since the end of the two five-year, multi-year Apache Longbow contracts that produced 501 remanufactured aircraft for the U.S. Army, the series of follow-on contracts for new and remanufactured Apaches has kept production managers and the Apache Team busy meeting the Army's needs. And yes, even with these disruptive build rated the Apache Team continues to deliver ahead of schedule.
And before long, Apache Block III will add its unique mark to a successful production epic.