The First Boeing AH-64 Apache Block III was Delivered
The first Apache Block III helicopter was delivered to the Army today during a ceremony at the Boeing plant here in which the aircraft was rolled out on stage under bright lights and a wisp of generated smoke.
Hundreds of industry, government and military officials attended the event in which two of the new AH-64 aircraft were actually delivered to the Army ahead of schedule. The first Block III helicopter was finished about a week early and the second about a month ahead of schedule, according to David Koopersmith, Boeing Attack Helicopter Programs vice president.
"It's an amazing game-changer," said Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby about the new Apache. Crosby, the Army's program executive officer for aviation, went on to say during a press conference that no other helicopter in the world could match the Apache Block III.
The new attack helicopter has a stronger engine, improved avionics, better computer-networking capability and increased maneuverability when compared to current Apaches, officials said.
The Block III Apache features a 701D engine, composite rotor blades, a "Rotorcraft Drive System of the 21st Century" known as RDS-21, Face Gear Transmission and High Performance Shock Strut advanced landing gear.
"It's like flying an Appaloosa stud," said Lt. Col. Dan Bailey, Apache Block III program manager, who said he had experience as a youth breaking horses.
"This aircraft is so much faster and stronger than anything we've had in the past," Bailey said.
Bailey said he used to compare the Block III to the older Apache models by saying it was like driving a sports car compared to a sedan. But after flying the newest aircraft configuration, he said it's much more than that.
"Flying the Block III is truly like trying to hold back that Appaloosa stud," Bailey said. "He always wants to go."
The first two Apache Block III aircraft will replace current prototypes and be flown by test pilots from the Redstone Test Center in Alabama. The helicopters will at first be kept at the Boeing complex in Mesa, Ariz., where pilots and engineers from Redstone will work with them. Then one of the two new helicopters may eventually be placed at Redstone Arsenal, officials said.
The next five helicopters are scheduled to be finished in March and will be fielded to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Bn., 1st Aviation Regiment at Fort Riley, Kan. The unit is part of the 1st Infantry Division and is slated to be at initial operating capability with the Apache Block III helicopters by the first quarter of fiscal year 2013, officials said. They said it's likely the 1/1st will deploy to Afghanistan with the aircraft soon after that.
The 1st Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, is the next unit tentatively scheduled to be fielded with the Apache Block III. But that could change, Army officials were quick to point out.
Overall, the Army plans to acquire 690 Block III Apaches between now and 2026 at a production rate of roughly two battalions per year, beginning in fiscal year 2013. Some of these will be re-manufactured aircraft and some built completely new. Crosby did add that the "constrained budget environment" over the next few years could affect the acquisition rate.
"We've got to think of this as part of the overall modernization strategy of the Army today," Crosby said of the Apache Block III.
Plans also exist to field the Apache Block III with U.S. allies such as Taiwan. The Taiwan government has a contract for 30 of the new aircraft to be fielded over a 12-month period. Officials added that other coalition nations have requested demonstrations of the new aircraft's capabilities.
Source: 2 November 2011 - MESA, Ariz. (Army News Service) - http://www.army.mil
(Kris Osborn of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology contributed to this report through an earlier article.)
Photo Story: Boeing Plans Rollout of First Apache Block III
Boeing plans a November 2 rollout ceremony in Mesa, Ariz., for the first upgraded AH-64D Apache Block III destined for the U.S. Army. Ten of the latest Apaches are advancing through production, David Koopersmith, Boeing vice president of attack helicopter programs, said October 10 during a briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Boeing was awarded a $247 million contract last October to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the Apache Block III. The LRIP phase covers 51 aircraft. The Army plans to acquire a total of 690 Apache Block IIIs through 2027, most of them remanufactured Block Is and IIs, but with 56 newly built aircraft to replace training and combat losses. The older Apaches are disassembled by Science Engineering Services near Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., and then shipped to the Boeing Global Strike facility in Mesa.
The Block III upgrade features improved GE Aviation T700-GE-701D engines with enhanced digital electronic engine control units, improved drive system and transmission, composite rotor blades and extended-range fire-control radar and missiles. The upgrade introduces Level 3 and 4 control of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including the RQ-7 Shadow and their sensor payloads. Level 3 is control of the UAS sensor payload; Level 4 enables an Apache crewman to direct the UAS to desired locations by entering waypoints to its flight plan. The copilot-gunner seated in the front seat will perform these functions with the same handgrips used for other sensors, monitoring the UAS location and own-ship position on a tactical situation display.
The data link electronics and antenna for UAS control, known as the UAS tactical common datalink assembly (UTA), is contained in the doughnut-shaped, mast-mounted radome that houses the Apache Longbow fire-control radar (FCS). Col. Shane Openshaw, Apache program manager, said 24-aircraft brigades will have nine helicopters equipped with the FCS, nine with UTA and six “vanilla” aircraft. The first Block III unit equipped will be at Fort Riley, Kan., in June 2012. The aircraft will enter service in 2013.
While the Apache Block III is driving the interoperability standard for Level 3 and 4 UAS control, it did not participate in the Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Concept exercise at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in mid-September. “It was my decision, from the perspective of mitigating risk, not to peel off a test asset to support that exercise,” Openshaw said.
Photo: AH-64D Block II Apache maneuvers over Arizona desert earlier this year. Boeing will roll out the first Apache Block III in November. (Photo by Bill Carey) - 17 October 2011 - AIN Defense Perspective - by Bill Carey -http://www.ainonline.com