February 19, 2011:
The U.S. Army has ordered another 14 AH-64D Block 2 Apache helicopter gunships to replace war losses. New Apaches cost about $16 million. Most of that pays for the engines, electronics and weapons, which is where most of the money goes for modern aircraft. This latest buy makes a total of 52 new Apaches bought to replace combat losses during the last decade.
Meanwhile, the AH-64D Block 3 is on the way. Two years ago, the prototype of the AH-64 Block 3 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 two 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.