AH-64 Apache Helicopter:

A Lethal Weapon

Spc. Leighton Johnson, left, and Pfc. Nicholes Cota, both of Company E, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, give the pilot of this AH-64D Apache helicopter a wide berth after refueling operation at Baghdad International Airport. Official Army Photo
The AH-64 Apache helicopter is the Army’s primary attack helicopter. Made by The Boeing Co., it first entered Army service in 1984.

Built to fight by day or night in challenging battlefield and adverse weather conditions, it is regarded as the most lethal helicopter in military aviation history. The durable aircraft can withstand rounds as large as 23 mm.

The 50-foot-long Apache flies with a crew of two: a pilot and co-pilot gunner.

They carry out armed reconnaissance missions. The helicopter packs radar-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles, an arsenal with which to complete its primary mission: to destroy high-value targets with precision strikes.

It does that job with a Target Acquisition Designation System (TADS) tied to the head movements of the pilots so that the cameras point where they look. The system includes a night vision sensor, a laser range finder and laser target designator, a thermal imaging infrared camera and a daylight television camera. Images from TADS are superimposed onto the crew’s helmet-mounted optical sights.

Apaches fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm, a military campaign launched against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Eight helicopters, manned by pilots from the 101st Airborne Division, flew 90 miles from their base in Saudi Arabia, observing a radio blackout until 10 seconds before hitting their targets.

The choppers destroyed early-warning radar installations in western Iraq, clearing the way for 1,000 U.S. Air Force jets to cross undetected into that nation for bombing runs.

The makers of the helicopter introduced a next-generation model, the Apache Longbow, in 1997. It uses a millimeter wave radar system for targeting that is four times more lethal and seven times safer than the original.

The chopper’s onboard computer system can identify more than 128 potential targets and winnow that down to the 16 most important, which it then transmits to other helicopters in the assault team. Based on the data, an attack can be launched within 30 seconds of the radar scan.

The Apache is armed with an M261 rocket launcher with 19 tubes. Both the Apache and Apache Longbow use dual General Electric T700-GE-701 1698 shp turboshaft engines and feature a four-blade articulated rotor system.

Additional Specifications (AH-64D):

Maximum Gross Weight: 16,027 pounds
Empty Weight: 11,800 pounds
Maximum Speed: 149 knots / 171 mph
Armament:Hellfire missiles, Hydra 70 (70 mm, 2.75-inch) rockets and M230 30 mm chain gun
Rotor System: 48 feet in diameter
Length: 58.17 feet
Height: 13.30 feet
Range: 253 miles
Price Per Aircraft: $11.3 million (Fiscal 1999)