With its powerful engines and strong suite of weapons, the AH-64D Apache Longbow remains one of the most widely used attack helicopters in the world.
Designed for Anti-Armor Missions
The first Apache was designed by Hughes Helicopters as part of the U.S. Army’s Advanced Attack Helicopter program. The first version of the helicopter was flown on October 1, 1975, and was designed to destroy enemy tanks and other armoured vehicles. The current version of the helicopter – the AH-64D Apache Longbow – is armed with 113 millimeter M230 Chain Guns, Hydra 70 FFAR rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire rockets, AIM-92 Stinger rockets, and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
The Apache Longbow is also outfitted with powerful T700-GE-701D engines designed by General Electric Aviation. These engines allow the helicopter to travel at a maximum speed of 182 miles per hour. The Apache Longbow has a cruising speed of 165 miles per hour. Over the years, the helicopter’s role has evolved beyond its attack function. Today, the Apache Longbow is also used for close air support and as an escort to soldiers and vehicles in combat zones.
Operational History and Popularity Outside the U.S.
Since it became operational in 1975, Apache helicopters have been used in almost every major conflict involving the U.S. military. The helicopter first saw combat during the 1989 invasion of Panama known as "Operation Just Cause." Since then, Apaches have proven their worth during the first Gulf War in 1991, Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-1990s, and in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
Many of the U.S.’s closest allies also employ Apache helicopters in their militaries. Other countries that use Apaches include the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Greece, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. Canada has explored the possibility of using modified Apache helicopters to help its Navy defend the country’s expansive coastlines.
Latest Upgrades and Future Use
Although it has been in use for 35 years, the U.S. Army has no plans to retire the Apache helicopter. The current model AH-64D Apache Longbow is outfitted with enhanced sensors and night vision equipment, state-of-the-art targeting systems, a glass cockpit, and enhanced navigation technology.
In 2008, the U.S. Army announced that it planned to further upgrade the Apache with more digitization, a new tactical radio system, more powerful engines, new composite rotor blades and landing gear, and the capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as UAVs.
With further improvements, the U.S. Army plans to keep the AH-64D Apache Longbow in service, providing the firepower and support needed in combat zones around the world.