THE US UNDER-secretary of Defense, Paul Kiminski, has authorised the US Army and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter System (MDHS) to enter full-rate production for the AH-64D Longbow Apache and the mast-mounted millimetre-wave radar being developed jointly by Westinghouse and Lockheed Martin.

To the surprise of MDHS, the authorisation also cleared the way for multi-year procurement over the next five years, although this will require formal legislative approval. "I authorise the Army to award a single-year contract with a not-to-exceed quantity of 18 aircraft," says Kiminiski, who adds that the contract may become a multi-year contract for at least 232 aircraft.

Kiminski also gave the go-ahead for the Army to enter low-rate initial production for up to 352 Lockheed Martin Hellfire II RF (radar frequency) missiles, "...and I delegate the authority to the Army to make the full-rate production decision for the missiles". The Army was also instructed to complete the air-to-air analysis for the AH-64D by December.

MDHS plans to begin remanufacturing the first of the US Army's 758 AH-64A models into AH-64D Longbow Apaches in mid-1996, with first delivery scheduled for early 1997. Plans call for around 220 to be equipped with the radar, while the balance of A models will be remanufactured into D versions with the ability to take the radar at any stage.

Source: Flight International