Army Renames Apache Block III Helicopters
The Block III version of the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter will be designated the AH-64E in order to avoid confusion with the Block II AH-64D Apache, said Army Col.John Lynch at an Oct. 24 panel at the Association for the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.
“It's a minor change in terminology and how we classify things," Lynch said.
The Block III Apache can fly higher and faster than its Block II predecessor and has additional capabilities, including color television displays and improvements to the radar frequency interferometer. It also has the ability to control an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Additionally, Link 16, NATO’s military data exchange network, will be built into Block III aircraft starting in lot four and then retrofitted in earlier lots, Lynch said."If we're going to be a player in the joint world, we've got to have that Link 16 connectivity."
In August, the Defense Acquisition Board approved full rate production of Block III, a move Project Manager Col. Jeff Hager called the "biggest decision" affecting the program since the series went into production.
However, there are two financial hurdles. A continuing resolution from Congress is holding up the contract process, Hager said. He has also tasked his product offices to do contingency planning in the event of sequestration.
Boeing has delivered 24 of the Block III aircraft to the Army so far in 2012, Hagersaid. Twenty-four more are scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year,said David Koopersmith, Boeing vice president of Attack Helicopter Programs.
The company has scheduled its last delivery of Block II helicopters no later than Sept. 2013, said Koopersmith, although the program will be sustained until around 2024.
“We are working to accelerate the pace of production in Mesa on our Block III line,” he said. “In any one area, we'll be moving people from the Block II line to the Block III line."
The first Block III Apache helicopter was rolled out Nov. 2011, but it has not yet been used in combat. The Army hopes to eventually acquire 690 Block III aircraft.
In total, Apache helicopters have clocked 3.5 million flight hours and almost 1 million hours in combat, Koopersmith said.
Boeing has seen growing interest in the Apache from foreign markets. This year, both Indonesia and Qatar have submitted notifications to Congress, seeking to procure the aircraft. Qatar is pursuing a $3 billion deal for 24 helicopters, and Indonesia a $1.4 billion arms package that includes eight helicopters.
The company is also in competition to sell Apache helicopters to South Korea. Officials anticipate a decision by the end of the year, Koopersmith said.
Photo Credit: Army