The United States Army has awarded Boeing a contract to begin low rate initial production of AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopters.
The $247 million contract signed on 22 October covers the production of eight units of the latest variant of the helicopter in the Lot 1 configuration, says Boeing. It follows an acquisition decision memorandum signed by the Department of Defense on 7 October, which authorised the programme to enter the LRIP phase to produce 51 aircraft.
The aircraft will be assembled and tested at the Boeing facility in Mesa, Arizona. The army's objective is to have 690 Block IIIs, says Boeing.
Washington announced recently that Saudi Arabia could acquire more than 150 new helicopters, including 36 Apache Block IIIs, from the USA under acquisitions worth a combined $25.6 billion. In addition, Taiwan is due to receive 30 Apache Block IIIs under a 2008 weapons deal cleared by the Bush administration.
The Block III Apaches offer an improved drive system with the GE T700-701D engine, composite main rotor blades, a new split-torque face gear transmission, and improved networked communications, says Boeing.