Volume 04, Issue 2
|Integrated Defense Systems|
Capabilities drive Apache's performance, results—and longevity
BY MARC SKLAR
Results drive customer praise, which stimulates global interest, resulting in product longevity.
The Apache helicopter team used that formula to win over the U.S. Army in the early 1980s. It's followed that game plan to attract and secure international customers for the AH-64D Apache Longbow.
"Our international customers and potential customers see what the Apache has done and know there's nothing like it," said Hugh Dimmery, Apache International Business Development manager. "The Apache also keeps showing it can perform more missions under more circumstances so our customers have maximum flexibility."
Already, the Apache Longbow has surpassed its predecessor, the AH-64A Apache, in customer numbers by winning orders from nine nations including the United States. The A-model was initially in service with the U.S. Army and five other nations. Egypt is upgrading its entire A-model fleet, and the other A-model operators are upgrading portions of their fleet or considering moving forward.
Most recently, the first AH-64D-I Apache was delivered to the Israel Air Force. The Republic of Singapore, Egypt, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have taken delivery of, or are currently receiving, their AH-64Ds. Greece, Japan and Kuwait have ordered the next-generation multirole combat helicopter.
Greece was the most recent international customer to select the Apache Longbow with the Ministry of Defense's purchase of 12 AH-64Ds and options for four more.
Other potential customers include remaining current AH-64A operators who have not yet chosen to upgrade, as well potential customers in Asia, northern Europe and Eurasia.
"The Apache has been demonstrating its effectiveness 24 hours a day, every day in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Mike Burke, director of Apache Business Development at the Boeing site in Mesa, Ariz., where Apaches are produced. "As impressive as the AH-64D is on paper, it's the reports back from people who fly it that prove Apache is the best in its class."
Apache units have been serving in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom—operations involving harsh environments and heavy usage rates. As the crews and commanders of the units rotate out, their descriptions of the Apache's performance are glowing. Among them is U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mike Barbee, who led his Apache unit into a fierce battle at the Karbala Gap in Iraq in the war's early days.
"We flew through a two-hour gauntlet of fire, and they could not bring us down," he said. "The aircraft did not let us down. It's the best there is. I wouldn't want to go to war in any other aircraft than the Apache Longbow."
Apache has demonstrated the ability to work in almost any environment during the day or night. On the front lines, Apaches have supported troops in the high, hot environment of the Afghanistan mountains. The helicopter has gone through several demonstrations and tests of shipboard operations, and recently Boeing tested an Apache operating in Colorado snow using skis.
The Apache team, therefore, can work with the international customers to configure the aircraft to best meet the customer's needs.
To enhance the rotorcraft's performance, new technologies are added to the helicopter in ongoing incremental development. Incremental development adds technologies as they are ready and desired by the customer throughout the production run, rather than as a block of upgrades added at one time.
All Apache Longbows are now being delivered with a three-dimensional moving map display to improve crews' awareness of the terrain that surrounds them and enemy locations. Also, some Apaches in the field will begin getting an upgraded Modernized-Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor. M-TADS/PNVS provides a 150 percent improvement in performance and reliability over the original TADS/PNVS, and will reduce maintenance. The day-night vision system will later be incorporated into production Apaches.
And the team continues to advance systems, developing components and capabilities that can be added to future Apaches to ensure it maintains its lead on competitors. Features potentially on the horizon:
In July 2006, Boeing will complete the second five-year multiyear U.S. Army contract to remanufacture AH-64As into AH-64Ds for a fleet of 501 Apache Longbows. AH-64Ds also are moving along the assembly line for a number of the international customers. Boeing is now preparing for the U.S. Army's next planned round of upgrades to the Block III configuration, as well as new build and remanufacturing orders from current and new international customers.
U.S. Army plans call for keeping the Apache as part of the force at least through 2030, which will present years of new opportunities for international sales.
"We can't predict the future, but based on our past experience and current efforts, our engineers and designers know how to keep the Apache relevant for decades to come," Burke said. "We know we can provide the capabilities needed in the changing battlefield faced by the U.S. Army and our growing number of international customers."
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