Warplanes: Sharp Eyed Apaches

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August 29, 2009: The U.S. is replacing the 24 AH-64 Block 1/6 helicopter gunships in South Korea with  Block 2/11 (the latest version in service) models. The new AH-64s are flown in, and the old ones flown out, via C-17 transports. The replacement is taking place at the rate of six helicopters a month.

The 2/11 models have an improved cockpit display that shows the terrain below in some detail, making it easier, and less nerve wracking, to fly at night or in bad weather. A new FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) which not only supplies the cockpit display with more accurate terrain detail, but also gives the pilot photo-realistic images of potential targets.

Meanwhile, Block 3 is on the way. Last year, the prototype of the AH-64 Block 3 Apache helicopter gunship took its first flight. The army will be upgrading all of its 634 AH-64s to the new Block 3 standard, a process that won't be completed until 2020. The first Block 3s won't enter service for another three years.

Block 3 has a more powerful and fuel efficient engine, as well as much improved electronics. Block 3 will also have Internet like capabilities with other aircraft and ground troops. Block 3 will be able to control several UAVs, and launch missiles at targets spotted by its UAVs. The Block 3 radar will have longer range and onboard computers will be much more powerful. The electronics will be easier to upgrade and maintain.

The 7.5 ton AH-64D carries a pilot and a weapons officer, as well as up to 16 Hellfire missiles (plus the 30mm automatic cannon). Sorties average three hours. The AH-64 can operate at night and has a top speed of 260 kilometers an hour.

 


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