Warplanes: Apaches On The Block

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September18, 2008:  South Korea is being offered 36 refurbished U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships, rebuilt to like-new condition, for about $23 million each. That's a nearly 60 percent discount off the price of new AH-64s. These helicopters would have a useful life of about 10,000 hours in the air. The U.S. Army is planning to offer a total of 260 older AH-64s to allies via similar deals, or even an auction, if too many nations say yes.

The AH-64 has compiled an impressive combat record, and gone through several upgrades. The current version, which South Korea is being offered, is an all weather aircraft that is particularly effective at night. The U.S. Army has over 700 Apache (AH-64) helicopter gunships in service, out of about 1,100 built. The ten ton aircraft basically provides the close air support. Unlike jet fighters, the Apache only has a max speed of 360 kilometers an hour. But usual speed is much slower, from the cruising speed of about 280 kilometers an hour to a dead stop, while still in the air. The average sortie for an AH-64 lasts about 90 minutes, when just using internal fuel (that can be tripled with the maximum of four external tanks). Typically, AH-64s in combat will fly up to half a dozen sorties a day, often taking on additional ammo when they land to refuel.

The Apache is a Cold War era weapon, designed in the 1970s for seeking out and killing armored vehicles on the battlefield. It has been good at that and carries up to 16 Hellfire missiles and a 30mm automatic (ten rounds a second) cannon with 1200 rounds of armor piercing ammo. The Apaches are operated by a pilot and weapons systems operator. Eventually, all of the U.S. Army's Apache's will be equipped with the Longbow radar and sensor equipment that enables the gunship to find and attack ground targets at night and in bad weather. Entering service in the early 1980s, the Apache did an excellent job during the 1991 Gulf War. So far, the U.S. AH-64 fleet has spent over two million hours in the air, with nearly 600,000 of those hours flown since September 11, 2001. The U.S. Army does not need all the AH-64s that it has, partly because of the proliferation of precision weapons (smart bombs and GPS guided shells and rockets), and the high cost of operating attack helicopters. Thus the need to unload hundreds of older AH-64s.

 


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