As Boeing prepares for a possible F model Apache as a bridge between the legacy helicopter and the Future Vertical Lift aircraft, the US Army says it will not pursue the development of the AH-64F.
Boeing’s plan includes securing a second multi-year buy for the Apaches, which would be followed by the second iteration of the E model or an F model, Kim Smith, Boeing’s vice president for attack helicopter programs told reporters at the AUSA Annual meeting in Washington DC. The customer would choose the designation for the helicopter, she says.
“With the current assumptions and projections, it’s felt very strongly that there will be another turn on the Apache prior to FVL, as a bridge to FVL,” Smith says.
But the Army is not pursuing development of an AH-64F, a spokesman for the service’s deputy chief of staff for program development told FlightGlobal. This echoes comments from Gen. John (Mike) Murray himself on FVL earlier this month. He said the army will not be able to afford funding the Apache and FVL concurrently.
The army will continue buying the Apache through the 2020s and Boeing’s production of the army's current program of record, which will total 690 Echo models, will end in 2026. FVL is slated to come online in 2030.
“We’re investing in FVL through aggressive science and technology [funding],” he says. “We do have to manage aircraft over time, we’ll continue to buy the AH-64E while we phase in the FVL variant. So you’re going an overlap at some point.”
While the service does not have a current requirement for an F model, it would open dialogue with industry if a requirement emerges, the spokesman says.
Boeing is examining its plan past 2026 and keeping an eye on the FVL timeline to see whether the fielding date remains the same. The upgraded E or new F model would also take into account the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Programme, which would replace the GE T700 engine that powers both the AH-64 and Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60.
“If you put ITEP in, how do you take advantage of that?” says Mark Ballew, Boeing’s director of helicopters global sales and marketing. “What do you need to do to different components of the aircraft to reduce drag, to be able to produce additional lift? So all those things that the team is looking at.”
When asked how Boeing would reconcile its SB-1 Defiant pitch for the FVL programme at the same time as a push for a new Apache, Smith countered the two programmes were mutually beneficial. The company would leverage investment on the Apache to help lower risk on FVL, Smith says.
“So it’s really complementary rather than competing,” she says.