The Israeli air force plans to upgrade its entire fleet of Boeing AH-64A Apache attack helicopters to the manufacturer's enhanced Longbow configuration.

Its decision follows an analysis of the more capable AH-64D's participation during Operation "Cast Lead", launched late last year against Hamas militants in the Gaza strip.

Israel's D-model Apaches played a major role in the campaign, by supporting ground forces and suppressing sources of enemy fire. The aircraft also performed so-called "search and kill" missions aimed at preventing the launch of rockets towards Israeli territory.

The air force operates 17 new or remanufactured AH-64Ds, according to Flightglobal's HeliCAS database, with the type referred to as the "Saraf" in Israeli service.

 AH-64D Israel pair - Israel Sun Rex Features
© Israel Sun/Rex Features
The Israeli air force received its first AH-64Ds in April 2005

Israel had also considered buying more new Apaches, but recently opted to instead upgrade its legacy AH-64As to the Longbow configuration. Its air force has an active fleet of 30 of the aircraft, according to HeliCAS.

"The upgrade will give us the capability of the Longbow faster, and we need it in the earliest point in time," says an air force source.

Negotiations are under way with Boeing, which last year urged international operators including Israel and Greece to commit to the Block II/Longbow standard before the US Army stops supporting the A-model Apache.

Source: Flight International