The US Army plans to grant Boeing a multiyear contract for the production or remanufacture of up to 600 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.
The potential contract’s value was undisclosed, though it would consist of a five-year multiyear contract or one-year contract with options from FY2022 to FY2026, according to a US Army notice online. The army intends on sole sourcing the work to Boeing and posted its plan online so as to give other potentially interested parties a chance to bid.
In 2017, Boeing and the US government signed the first five-year, $3.4 billion contract through which the Army, and an undisclosed foreign military customer, were to acquire the “E” variant of the Apache. As part of that contract, the US Army was to receive 244 remanufactured Apaches, while 24 new ones were to go to the international customer.
The AH-64E is a modernised version of the AH-64D. The army is upgrading its attack helicopters to the “E” variant as part of its effort to sustain the Apache fleet through the year 2040.
The latest “E” variant includes the ability of the aircrew to control the flight path and the payload of an unmanned air vehicle, typically Textron Systems’ RQ-7B Shadow or General Atomic Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Aircraft performance is also improved via the GE Aviation T700-701D turboshaft, composite main rotor blades, and an improved rotor drive system. Other upgrades include enhanced avionics, integration of communications Link 16-related hardware and software, and a cognitive decision aiding system.
The US Army’s intention to grant Boeing a five-year Apache production contract is a significant turnaround for the company as the programme hit a big snag last year. In March 2018, the US Army suspended acceptance of all AH-64E aircraft due to safety risks and inspection expenses related to the helicopter’s strap pack retention nut. The nut connects the helicopter’s rotorhead to the airframe and keeps the blades from spinning off during flight, but might corrode to the point where it cracks under stress after being subject to severe weather and salt in coastal areas. Failure of the part resulted in the loss of an AH-64D and two crew members in 2016, according to the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation.
Boeing met US Army conditions to restart production at its Mesa, Arizona facility in August 2018, but the issue appeared to knock the company off its delivery schedule. In 2018, it delivered zero new AH-64 Apaches, compared to 11 in 2017. In 2018, it delivered 23 remanufactured AH-64s, compared to 57 in 2017.