With more than 30 years of military service, the AH-64 Apache has been the “backbone” of the attack helicopter forces in the US army and its allies. The last evolutionary version of the Apache family today is the AH-64E.
In a statement in April 2020, Boeing confirmed that with 500 aircraft serving in the U.S. Army and other countries around the world, the AH-64E Guardian helicopter has proven its reliability and ability to meet diverse missions. Currently, production lines and test operations for the AH-64E Guardian helicopter at Boeing’s plant in Mesa, Arizona are maintained, although the epidemic situation in the US is still very complicated.
Vice President of Boeing’s helicopter business, Steve Parker, said that since the first AH-64E Guardian was launched in 2011, the valuable upgrades of this version ensure the high readiness of any defense force that owns it.
AH-64E attack helicopter is the latest version of the AH-64 series. Formerly known as AH-64D Block III. In 2012, it was identified as the AH-64E Guardian to represent its increased capabilities.
The AH-64 Apache helicopter family is like a flying tank, capable of participating in heavy attacks. The difference between the AH-64E version and the previous versions is the new main rotor blades made of composite material, which allows noise reduction, increase cruise speed, climb rate, and payload capacity. It can withstand hits from 23 mm anti-aircraft guns.
The AH-64E has a stronger power pack, upgraded gearbox and other improvements. This helicopter is equipped with 2 General Electric T700-GE-701D engines, developing 1,994 horsepower each instead of the 1,800 horsepower as on previous versions. Maximum speed of this helicopter is up to 300 km/h. The cruise speed is about 275 km/h, the range is 476 km, and the service ceiling is 6,400m.
The AH-64E features improved digital connectivity, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, full Instrument flight rules capability, and improved landing gear. New avionics has improved nighttime operability.
In addition, the AH-64E helicopter can control several UAVs. Thanks to the integrated Manned-unmanned teaming system that allows AH-64E Guardian helicopters to operate and watch real-time video from from nearby UAVs. As a result, the helicopter can chase and attack high-speed targets at long distances with UAV sensors.
The Longbow fire control radar has also been updated, increasing the accuracy of hits. With this radar, the AH-64E is capable of firing AGM-114R Hellfire-2 guided anti-tank missiles in fire-and-forget mode. Radar can detect, classify and prioritize simultaneously 12 targets. It helps the helicopter possible to operate in fog and smoke conditions.
The main weapon of the AH-64E Guardian helicopter is a 30mm M230 cannon, integrated control via the pilot helmet. In normal combat operations, it usually carries the Hydra 70 unguided rockets. Depending on the mission, the helicopter can equip a variety of other ammunition. Four hard points on the two stub wings are available for use.
The AH-64E can carry up to 16 AGM-114R Hellfire 2 anti-tank guided missiles. In a combat with hostile helicopters, the Guardian could carry up to two AIM-9 Sidewinder, four AIM-92 Stinger or four Mistral air-to-air missiles. In order to deal with ground radar targets, the AH-64E can be equipped with two AGM-122 Sidearm air-to-ground anti-radiation missiles.
Like its predecessors, the AH-64E Guardian attack helicopter is operated by a crew of two, including a pilot and a gunner, in a tandem cockpit. The copilot or gunner sits in the rear seat, which is raised and has good all-round visibility. Both crew members are capable of flying the aircraft and performing methods of weapon engagements independently. The crew compartment has shielding between the cockpits, such that at least one crew member can survive hits.
There are many features to protect the crew and increase the survivability of the helicopter. The airframe is designed to withstand hits from guns of up to 12.7 mm caliber. The seats of the crew members are equipped with crash-resistant seats. The airframe has a self-sealing fuel system to protect against ballistic projectiles.
As planned, the US Army will upgrade 634 AH-64D helicopters to the AH-64E standard and build 56 new helicopters. The first helicopter was delivered in 2011. Guardian has also been approved for export. Customers of this helicopter are India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
On July 2, 2019, the Boeing Group delivered the first batch of 4 AH-64E attack helicopters out of 22 for the Indian Air Force. The Indian Air Force signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the US Government and Boeing in September 2015 to purchase 22 attack helicopters. In addition, in 2017, the Indian Ministry of Defense approved the purchase of six Apache helicopters, and associated weapons systems for the Army with a total value of about 930 million dollars. This will be the first Indian Army helicopter squadron.
The Philippines is also one of several countries approved by the US to sell AH-64E helicopters. The US State Department has approved the ability to sell the Philippines 6 Bell AH-1Z Viper and 6 AH-64E Guardian. A batch of 6 Vipers and related equipment costs up to $450 million while the AH-64E batch costs up to $1.5 billion.
However, in a recent move, Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said that the two types of attack helicopters are being offered by the United States, far exceeding the Philippine government’s budget. This deal is very difficult to complete. A number of customers are also ordering AH-64E attack helicopters including Indonesia, Qatar and South Korea. It is expected that the production line of the AH-64E will maintain until 2026.
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