WAH-64D Apache Attack Helicopter

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Two Apache Helicopters in flight
Two Apache Helicopters
View from under the Apache Helicopter
Under the Apache
The Apache Helicopter
Apache Helicopter

WAH-64D Apache Attack Helicopter

Concept and Building History

The need of a new and highly secure helicopter was first felt in the beginning of the 1990s. The great military power, the British Army, identified this need and by February 1993 they finalised the need with an invitation to bid for the design, construction and trial of the new concept.

Among the bidding companies were: Boeing and Sikorsky with the RAH-66 Comanche, Agusta with the A129 Mangusta, British Aerospace and Eurocopter with the Tiger, GEC Marconi and Bell Helicopter the Cobra Venom, and Westland and McDonnell Douglas with the AH-64 Apache. The decision was taken later in July in 2005 and the winning aircraft builder was Westland and McDonnell Douglas with the Apache. One year later in 2006 the tow Parties signed a contract for 67 helicopters. This is how the WAH-64D Apache era started.

The 67 WAH-64D Apache attack helicopters were built by the merged companies Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (1997) and Westland between 1999 and 2004. The first aircraft was built by Boeing and delivered to the Army in March 1999, followed by the Westland, who built their first aircraft in 2000 and delivered in July 2000. The last aircraft was built and delivered in July 2004.

What makes it better?

The WAH-64D Apache is the successor of the AH-64D Apache, built with some major differences, the most important of which are the folding blade mechanism and the Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engine instead of the General Electric T700s (the Rolls Royce engine can produce almost 25% more power than the General Electric engine, but it’s not exploited except during the take-off because of the Apache transmission system. There is a development program for a new transmission system that would use all the power provided by the Rolls engine).

The WAH-64D Apache is designed to destroy difficult and important targets such as tanks and other ground military machines. It is capable to fire CRV7 rockets. The WAH-63D Apache is design with protection against ice for the rotor blades. It is capable of detecting over 250 potential targets simultaneously, classify and prioritize them. It can operate in all weathers, day and night, has Selex Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System, and is to be provided with Bowman secure communications system in the near future.

The Longbow system consists mainly of the fire control radar together with the attack mode of up to 16 Hellfire guided missiles. Due to the folding blade mechanism, the WAH-64D Apache can be brought onboard ships. Since December 2005 the Royal Navy achieved maritime certification for the HMS Ocean, and in November 17 2006 the HMS Ark Royal was the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carrier to land a WAH-64D Apache. This took place at the Portsmouth Naval Base.

Here are some of the main characteristics of the WAH-64D Apache: dimensions: length -58 ft 4 (17,7 m) in with rotor turning, height -12 ft 8 (3,87 m) in, rotor diameter 48 ft (14,6 m),disc area -1,809.5 ft² (168.11 m²); weight: empty weight -11,387 lb (5,165 kg), loaded weight -17,650 lb (8,006 kg), maximum takeoff weight -21,000 lb (9,525 kg); the WAH-64D Apache is ‘gifted’ with a power plant of 2 Rolls-Royce RTM322 turbo shafts, 1,671 kW (2,241 hp) each; speed: cruise speed -180 mph (220 km/h), maximum speed -227 mph (365 km/h); range: 1,121 miles (1700 km).

The WAH-64D Apache is by far the best attack helicopter the British Army owns and it has been used in many military actions in the Middle East, where its effectiveness and capabilities were proven. It became a good investment, even though at the end the costs were a lot different than was initially predicted. Thus the British force became a more powerful military force that can use the WAH-64D Apache to take action in the war zones with high risks where the ground battle is dangerous. The WAH-64D Apache is now used in many operations with great success.

Here are some of the important operations in which the WAH-64D Apache was used and its interventions were successful:

The WAH-64D Apache’s first operation took place in Afghanistan and was part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade on the 22-th of May, 2006 in Afghanistan’s South Helmand province. Here the WAH-64D Apache used one of the Hellfire missiles in order to destroy a French armored vehicle damaged during a fight the day before. The decision of destroying it was based on the high difficulty of recovering it.

Since that first operation the UK military sent eight WAH-64D Apache and all are operable at any time.

Another important operation of the WAH-64D Apache took place in January 2007 in an attack against a major Taliban fort in the southern Helmand Province. This operation was led by the Royal Marines. The main goal of the WAH-64D Apache use was to recover Lance Corporal Mathew Ford of the 45 Commando Royal Marines who was missing after intense fighting in the area. Three WAH-64D Apaches were used in this rescue operation: two of them flew with two extra passengers each who were strapped to the aircraft wings; the third WAH-64D Apache was used to provide suppressive fire. The body of the mission Corporal was found and transported back. In this operation no casualties were registered and all of the rescuers were hailed for their bravery.

Due to its Longbow Fire Control Radar (LFCR), the WAH-64D Apache is being used in the Afghanistan with great confidence. Because of the LFCR the pilot is able to manage better the traffic in their airspace.

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