By Kris OsbornOctober 25, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 25, 2010) -- The U.S. Army has formally entered a low-rate production phase for its AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter -- a next generation attack aircraft with increased power, lift, maneuverability, communication with unmanned systems and hard-landing ability, service officials said.
The Army's Oct. 22 contract with Boeing covers production of 51 Block III helicopters, with the first one slated to arrive in October of next year.
"In November of last year, we completed our force development test and evaluation and a Limited User Test," said Col. Shane Openshaw, project manager for Apache helicopters. "Both showed the system was operationally effective and suitable and that we are on the right path with the Block III program."
"Our number-one project focus is to support the warfighter and make sure those in the fight get the best capability. They are performing an important mission. The Block III will be one of those important game-changing capabilities," Openshaw said.
The Block III Apache features a 701D engine, composite rotor blades, improved networking and communications avionics, Rotorcraft Drive System of the 21st Century -- known as RDS-21 -- Face Gear Transmission and High Performance Shock Strut advanced landing gear.
The RDS-21 improves efficiency because the transmission combines the output torque of two engines into a single power torque transmission, and the High Performance Shock Strut advanced landing gear gives the aircraft hard landing abilities at a D-model empty weight of 12,800-pounds, service officials explained.
In addition, the Apache Block III will include level-4 manned-unmanned teaming -- technology which will allow aircraft pilots to control the sensor payloads of nearby unmanned aircraft systems while viewing their live, real-time video feeds.
In a collaborative effort with its industry partner Boeing, the Army plans to build as many as 10 new aircraft every month by 2014.
"Keeping Soldiers in the forefront of what we do every day is our program's model - Soldiers first. That is our attitude," said Tommy Filler, acting vice president, Boeing Apache and AH-6 Programs.