Pilots from 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, are getting spun up on the new AH-64E Apache helicopters as they take to the sky around Marshall Army Airfield and Fort Riley, Kansas.
While the "E" model aircraft looks the same on the exterior, it doesn't fly the same as the previous version. The new model flies better and is more responsive than previous models, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathan Whittman, 1st Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt., aviation maintenance officer. Each pilot is required to go through 40 hours of training before their training process is complete.
More than half of the training is conducted in simulators -- 10 hours of flying in the new aircraft followed by several academic hours with written tests, Whittman said.
According to Whittman, as more and more systems have been added to the original Apache model, the aircraft had become sluggish and was not able to maintain speeds with other military helicopters.
More powerful engines have changed that.
"It has been improved overall, power wise," Whittman said. "We have gained a lot of power. Our engines have finally been able to use the power they are allotted with changes to the drivetrain system and gear boxes so we can put power up to the head so we can lift more and fly faster."
Whittman said during his tours to Afghanistan, many times the Apache he flew was not able to carry a full load of fuel and weapons to conduct military operations.
"The Echo is much more responsive," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Simpson, 1st Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt., instructor pilot, after his first day of flying the new model. "It wants to fly. It feels like it wants to fly and fly fast. If we conducting a medevac escort, we won't have to tell them to slow down anymore. That is important during that Golden Hour."
Whittman also added that the radio systems have been upgraded including the navigation system which allows the aircraft fly more direct patterns in cloudy weather. The new systems allow the pilots to communicate better with aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
"We could communicate with them before, but now we can communicate not only with radio but we can send them targets and data points," Whittman said. "They can see what we are engaging and we can see what they are engaging. It brings the situation battlefield tenfold more than what we had before."
Simpson said the new Apache is going to give the pilots more situation awareness on the battlefield, which will increase his ability to identify both targets and friendlies.
"The pilot will have more battlefield fidelity than we had in the past," Simpson said.