The US Army’s first unit of Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, which have upgraded engines and new software, has achieved initial operating capability and is ready to be deployed, according to a 27 November Army media release.

The Army says its 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion achieved the milestone following more than 6,000 flight hours in the model, which is called “Guardian.”

The battalion received its first AH-64E aircraft in January 2013 and completed fielding and individual training in May, says the media release.

Training was conducted at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, the unit conducted high-altitude mountainous environment training in Idaho and participated in Operating Rising Thunder, a live-fire training exercise in Yakima, Washington, conducted with AH-64D’s operated by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, says the release.

The AH-64E has composite rotor blades with an improved airfoil and an upgraded engine and transmission, changes intended to restore speed and lift performance, which degraded in the last two decades as the Army added weight to the original airframe.

In addition, the AH-64E has new software that allows pilots to control unmanned air vehicles and their payloads.

The AH-64E was designated AH-64 Block III before the Army changed the name in 2012.

Boeing told Flightglobal the name change reflects the increased capabilities of the aircraft.