Thursday, September 23, 2021

Boeing To Upgrade Its Apache Helicopters To The Most Advanced ‘Indian Variant’ In Asia-Pacific Region

Boeing is eyeing to upgrade its multi-role Apache attack helicopters to the most advanced and lethal variant in the Asia-Pacific region. India is already using the latest variant of the Boeing chopper. 

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The countries operating Apache AH-64D variant are considering upgrading their choppers to the ‘E’ standard, Randy Rotte, the India-based head of Boeing Asia-Pacific, was quoted as saying by Flight Global.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) uses the AH-64E, the most advanced variant of the Apache attack helicopter. Among other features, the ‘E’ variant has the capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could be a game-changer in future operations.

In July 2019, the US Army itself finalized a deal with Boeing to produce or remanufacture up to 600 US Army AH-64s to the ‘E’ standard, the most advanced.

Rotte emphasized that the steady production line in place for the upgrading US Army’s Apache helicopters will aid other militaries who are considering upgrading their legacy AH-64Ds to 64E.

IAF-Apache
An Indian Air Force Apache helicopter. (Image: IAF)

“You don’t want to wait until that production goes down to zero or close to zero, [because] then you bear the weight and the burden of the cost of keeping that production line going,” he said.

Rotte emphasized that the steady production line in place for the upgrading US Army’s Apache helicopters will aid other militaries who are considering upgrading their legacy AH-64Ds to 64E.

“You don’t want to wait until that production goes down to zero or close to zero, [because] then you bear the weight and the burden of the cost of keeping that production line going,” he said.

Rotte also noted how each country has their own configurations based on their requirements and unique situation and the upgrades depends on different use patterns and helicopter configurations around the region.

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IAF Apache helicopter

In the Asia-Pacific, India already operates the most advanced AH-64E variant along with Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan. On the other hand, countries like Japan and Singapore still operate the older AH-64D.

This year in January, Australia joined the league of countries with the AH-64E variant after it signed a $3.5 billion deal for the helicopter and related equipment.

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India’s Apache Deal

According to Boeing, India is one of 17 nations to select the Apache and has the most advanced variant, the AH-64E Apache that is also flown by the US and several other countries.

In 2015, India inked a deal with US aerospace giant Boeing for production, training, and support of 22 Apache Attack helicopters along with 15 CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.

The first batch containing eight helicopters arrived at Air Force Station Pathankot in September 2019.

The aero-structures for the AH-64 Apache helicopter for both US Army and international customers are being produced in India, at Boeing’s joint venture with Tata, Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL).

Recently, the Hyderabad facility completed the production of the 100th fuselage for the Apache helicopter.

India received the final batch of the helicopters at Air Force Station at Hindon in July 2020, amid the border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh. Several media reports suggest that the deadly rotorcraft has been deployed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for night sorties.

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Earlier in February 2020, India and the US signed a contract for the acquisition of six Apaches for the Indian Army during US President Donald Trump’s visit to New Delhi. The choppers are expected to be delivered in 2023.

In March this year, the US Army’s advanced attack helicopter was equipped with the lethal Spike NLOS (Non-Line Of Sight) missiles to increase the accuracy of the strikes and enhance the helicopter’s ability to strike moving targets, as reported by Eurasian Times.

This has increased the speculation in military circles for a similar weapon integration with India’s Apache helicopters, which could make the existing AH-64E variant, more lethal.

The E-Variant

Boeing describes AH-64 as the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter which serves as the backbone of the US Army attack helicopter fleet.

The original AH-64 was first flown in 1975 and since then, it has served the US military missions in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The AH-64E Apache is designed and equipped with an open systems architecture including the latest communications, navigation, sensor, and weapon systems. It has an improved Modernized Target Acquisition Designation System that provides day-night and all-weather target information, as well as night vision navigation capability.

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A US Army Apache testing a missile. (Image: US Army)

It is a versatile rotorcraft, capable of conducting reconnaissance, security, peacekeeping operations, and lethal attack, across myriad environments without reconfiguration.

In the ‘E’ variant, the Apache’s performance is improved via the more powerful GE Aviation T700-701D engines, upgraded face gear transmission to accommodate more power, new composite main rotor blades, and an improved rotor drive system. Other upgrades include enhanced avionics, advanced digital connectivity, and a cognitive decision aiding system, according to Boeing.

Boeing had reportedly also conceptualized an ‘F’ variant, however, the project was shelved after the US Army’s plan to build an attack version of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft to replace the Apache by 2040.

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