Boeing is showing off conceptual images of what it calls a Compound AH-64 Apache, a variant of the attack helicopter with a pusher propeller and small wing.
The company says it would have increased range and speed – capabilities initially envisioned for the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift Capability Set 3, a medium-lift utility and attack rotorcraft. However, because the attack requirement was absent from the service’s latest development iteration – the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) programme, which was unveiled in April – Boeing says the Compound Apache could fulfill the role in the future.
“It appears [the US Army's] focus is on the assault variant,” says Randy Rotte, Boeing’s director of business development for cargo helicopters and Future Vertical Lift programmes.
Boeing Compound AH-64 Apache model in wind tunnel
The Compound Apache would retain its tail rotor to counteract torque, in addition to a propulsor and wing. Boeing notes the configuration is similar to the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne, a cancelled programme to develop and produce a compound attack helicopter for the US Army in the 1960s.
Boeing has put a subscale model of the Compound Apache helicopter through some windtunnel testing.
The Compound Apache concept comes as the US Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme, the replacement for the retired scout helicopter Bell OH-58 Kiowa, may also end up replacing half of the service’s fleet of AH-64 attack helicopters.
Boeing has yet to reveal its submission for FARA and David Koopersmith, vice-president of Boeing Vertical Lift, declines to say if the Compound Apache is the basis of its bid.
Boeing also says the compound helicopter is not aimed at any specific future request from the service, but would be part of a modernisation effort of the existing AH-64 programme. Images of the rotorcraft were first previewed at a Vertical Flight Society conference in 2016 where the aircraft was described as a bridge between the current Apache fleet and the US Army's Future Vertical Lift replacement. Boeing now speaks of the compound rotorcraft as a longer-term solution for the service's attack aircraft needs.
Story updated 20 May with more context around the introduction of the compound concept