Invention and Development of the AH-64

The AH-64 Apache was first introduced in 1975 as a prototype known as the Hughes YAH-64, a twin-engine, two-place attack helicopter. Hughes Helicopter entered the prototype into the US Army Advanced Helicopter (AAH) competition. The AAH was a program intended to develop an attack helicopter for anti-armor operations that could function during the day, at night, or under adverse weather conditions. The following year, the US Army gave Hughes a full development contract, and in 1982, they approved the AH-64A Apache for production. Later, in 1984, McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) acquired Hughes Helicopters, and they began delivering to the US Army.

With its high maneuverability and heavy artillery, the AH-64 was initially intended to counter Warsaw Pact armed forces. The AH-64 Apache also played a crucial role in Operation Just Cause, the American invasion of Panama that began in December of 1989. The helicopters’ night vision capabilities and advanced sensors made them highly effective against anti-government forces in Panama, most of which occurred at nighttime. The AH-64s were also instrumental in the liberation of Kuwait, where the helicopters destroyed more than 245 enemy vehicles and incurred no losses. The AH-64 helicopters were also effectively used in The Gulf War, Bosnia, Albania, Desert Storm, and Kosovo. The US Army continues to use them and is expected to continue using the attack helicopters through 2045.

Modernization Initiatives Through the Years

The AH-64 has been upgraded with advanced technology to make the helicopter more deployable and survivable. It remains among the most innovative multi-role helicopters for the US Army.

AH-64D Apache Longbow

The AH-64D Apache Longbow was rolled out in 1992 and was equipped with fire-control radar and an advanced avionics suite. These upgrades gave pilots an enhanced ability to detect, classify, prioritize, and engage mobile or stationary enemy targets in almost any weather conditions and at standoff ranges.

In February of 2003, the Army received the initial AH-64D Block II aircraft, which included new digital enhancements and communications upgrades, such as a high-frequency radio, digital map, and JVMF messaging.

AH-64D Apache Block III

The Army received Boeing’s first AH-64D Apache Block III helicopters in 2011. This upgrade’s modernization included capacities for the AH-64D Apache Longbow to transition to the Future Force (FF), increasing survivability and decreasing the logistics footprint. Other upgrades included an open systems avionics architecture, a new transmission, a General Electric T700-GE-701D engine fleet, the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), and fly-by-wire flight controls.

AH-64E Apache, or “Guardian,”

In 2012, the Apache Block III became known as the AH-64E Apache, or “Guardian,” now the latest version of the AH-64 helicopters. The upgrades for this model included new fuselages that came with accommodations for configuration changes offered by the Guardian, such as positions for new technologies and avionics bays extended forward.

Additional Upgrades

Other upgrades included upgraded transmissions to coupe with extra power and other features to improve its survivability, namely new composite rotor blades that could withstand strikes from 23 mm guns and an infrared suppressing exhaust system, and chaff and flare dispensers. These systems were intended to reduce the likelihood of being hit by enemy air missiles. The US Army’s reliance on this powerful machine continues well into the 2020s, as Boeing announced in 2021 that they are building more AH-64E Guardian attack helicopters for the US Army, which are expected to be completed by October 2025.

Upgrade Opportunities

AllClear will help keep your AH-64 attack helicopter at maximum operating capacity. AllClear is partnered with some of the largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Honeywell, Collins Aerospace, and Eaton, to bring operators and repair centers unmatched and reliable modernization support and sustainment. We have experience with the AH-64 platform and offer OEM parts, sustainment services and planning, demand forecasting, long-term maintenance, and regulatory support and compliance. At AllClear, we have everything you need to keep your AH-64 attack helicopters fleet-ready!