The Taiwanese army earlier this year took delivery of the first of 30 Apache combat helicopters from the US and next month pilots and crew will begin training on the platform, which recently received a new designation from the US Army.
As a result of the significant upgrades made to the AH-64D Block III Apache during its development, the US Army recently decided to re-designate it the E model. To date, 25 AH-64Es have been delivered to the US Army and Taiwan received its first delivery during a low-key handover ceremony at Boeing Co’s Mesa facilities in Arizona in May.
According to Aviation Week, training for Taiwanese pilots and crews is expected to begin next month.
Following approval by the US government in August of contracts for full production of the helicopter, Boeing is now building four AH-64Es per month for the US Army, which plans to buy a total of 690, and three for foreign military sales (FMS). The US has also notified Congress for the sale of eight AH-64Es to Indonesia, 22 to Qatar and 22 to India, the latter under a non-FMS “hybrid” agreement.
If tests at the Naval Air Station China Lake in California last year are any indication, Taiwan’s AH-64E will be a far more formidable combat helicopter than its predecessors. During the drills, the E model reportedly countered realistic air defense threats and was able to maintain its position, unlike the Block II Apaches, which was “shot down” in similar exercises.
“The Block III absolutely frustrated these folks that operate these [air defense] systems,” Colonel John Lynch, attack helicopter manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Aviation Week.
This was partly due to the aircraft’s ability to operate at lower altitudes and thus evade radar systems arrayed against it.
Part of the Echo model’s advantages are its improved composite main rotor blades, which are 15cm longer than those used on older models, as well as a new tip design and General Electric T700-GE-701D engines, all of which give the aircraft improved aerodynamic performance.
The AH-64Es’ new power-to-weight ratio also makes it safer for operations at low-levels and gives it a performance similar to that of the AH-64A, which was significantly lighter than the AH-64D Block II model, Lynch told Shephard Media, a defense and aerospace publication.
Taiwan’s 30 Apache helicopters, administered under a program named “Sky Eagle,” were included in an October 2008 notification to US Congress for about US$2.5 billion. Full delivery of the multirole attack helicopters is expected to be completed in 2017.