The US Army's decision to transition production of the Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopter to the advanced Block 3 version early next decade is causing concern for some international operators of the current Block 2 variant.

Reports from Tokyo say Japan has dropped plans to procure a single AH-64D in its next fiscal year because of an increase in the helicopter's cost. In a slow-paced procurement, Japan has so far purchased 10 of a planned 62 Apaches to be assembled locally by Fuji Heavy Industries.

Production of the AH-64D for the US Army is to transition to the Block 3 standard around 2012, and the current Block 2 will be phased out. Boeing has offered to buy and store components for Block 2 Apaches if export customers commit to their purchase in advance, but this does not fit with Japan's year-by-year procurement system.

Tokyo wants all its AH-64Ds to be in the same configuration, but its procurement rate of one or two helicopters a year would take deliveries of all 62 aircraft planned well beyond the transition from Block 2 to Block 3 production.

As production of the Block 2 aircraft winds down, its unit cost is increasing. Boeing supplies Apaches to Fuji in knock-down kit form for local assembly, but Japan buys engines, radars and other systems direct from the suppliers.

Source: Flight International