AH-64D Longbow Apache Block III

Friday October 28, 2011

What is it?

The Army is rolling out its first full production AH-64D Longbow Apache Block III (AB3) aircraft on November 2 at the Apache factory in Mesa, Ariz. AB3 is the next evolution of the world's most lethal attack helicopter and resets the aircraft to 21st century technology.

Some of the major upgrades to the AB3 include a more powerful engine and drive train, composite rotor blades that provide more lift, Level IV Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) control which means the pilot can now control the flight path, weapons systems and sensors on a UAS; an open system architecture, and reduced operations support cost and logistics footprint.

AB3 III will have the ability to operate at 6,000 feet and 95 degrees at an out-of-ground effect hover with a full mission payload. The new Apaches will be stronger, faster and less constrained in extreme combat conditions. It will have a combat speed around 164 knots, about 20 knots faster than those currently in service. The Block III program brings back the performance of the early model and adds significantly more capabilities for today's fight.

What has the Army done?

The Apache Block III is fundamentally a remanufacture program, taking existing Longbow Apaches, inducting them, taking them apart, upgrading and refurbishing components, and adding the new Block III specific capability insertions. To date, 29 aircraft have already been inducted, putting the program ahead of schedule.

What does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army's requirement for an additional combat aviation brigade will bring 48 new Block III Apaches with an additional eight for training and attrition, bringing the total of new Block III aircraft to 56. Fielding of the Block III Apaches to the first unit is slated to begin in 2012, and the Initial Operational Test is planned for Spring 2012. The first unit will be fully equipped with the new AB3s in fiscal year 2013.

Why is this important to the Army?

The Apache Block III returns all the power margins lost over the years as a result of adding critical mission equipment packages, making the aircraft heavier. It will be the first Army rotorcraft capable of meeting the 6K/95 requirement with a full combat load. Besides the increase in top speed, the ability to fly higher and in hotter temperatures, and the ability to control the payload of a UAS, the AB3 will turn faster and tighter, making it almost impossible for the enemy to hide. The Apache Block III is a lethal capability. It can be a game changer on the battlefield, and is an indispensable benefit to the entire Army team and mission.

Resources:

Apache Longbow Fact file

Related articles:
Army building first Block III Apache
Army enters low-rate production for Block III Apache
Technology gives Apache block III more lift, capability, landing ability

Related video: Block III Apaches

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