Boeing expects to hear within days that it has secured the first phase of funding for the Block 3 Apache, which would introduce a suite of next generation technology, including UAV connectivity and new engines into the attack helicopter.

The manufacturer hopes to be able to announce the funding approval at Le Bourget after three of the four US Senate committees that need to give the green light agreed to do so. The move would launch the development phase of the aircraft, leading to a service entry in 2010.

Two elements of the planned Block 3 upgrade, the introduction of additional composites and the Level 4 UAV connectivity, might be moved forward in the US Army's improvement plans.


Boeing says it has already tested the Apache's ability to control UAVs both in flight and in a simulator. "We've flown the Apache controlling an unmanned Little Bird," says Boeing Apache programme manager Al Winn. "The aircraft will be capable of controlling up to three UAVs simultaneously to a range of up to 35km. The Level 4 connectivity involves everything except remote control of the UAV's take-off and landing. That will be controlled from a ground station."


Winn says Boeing has a solid programme of Apache upgrades for the second half of this decade. The manufacturer is contracted to supply 13 new-build Apache to replace aircraft lost from the US Army inventory.

The Block II extension programme will see 96 AH-64As remanufactured to AH-64D configuration. The 100 remaining -A model Apaches will be operated by the US National Guard Reserve.

Winn says the Apache remains a contender for a number of foreign military sales competitions, with prospects in Turkey, where a previous attack helicopter competition has to be restarted, as well as Greece, Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.



Source: Flight Daily News