Washington: The Army uses Native American tribe names as nicknames for its helicopters – Black Hawk, Kiowa Warrior and Lakota, for instance — but Boeing Co. officials at the Association of the United States Army’s annual convention in Washington are joshing that the service may want to start calling the company’s AH-64D Apache attack helicopter by the name the Taliban uses.
“The Monster is here!” a Taliban lookout shrieked over the radio to fighters in a valley below a few months ago as an Apache arrived on the scene to help U.S. troops battle the insurgents. “The Monster is above my head now! Do not move or you will die!” The lookout’s breathless alarm — intercepted and translated by U.S. forces during the battle — was reported to Boeing by the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 101st Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during a recent visit to the company’s Apache plant in Mesa, Ariz., company marketer Mike Burke told Breaking Defense during the Association of the US Army’s annual conference.
After 10 years of war, Taliban fighters probably know as well as anyone that the Apache carries a 30mm chain gun that can fire 640 rounds a minute, Hellfire missiles of both the laser- and radar-guided varieties, and unguided Hyrdra 70 2.75-inch rockets. What makes the Apache truly scary, though, are sensors and avionics that allow its two-member crew to see and kill targets from miles away, often without the enemy suspecting “The Monster” has arrived.
On Nov. 2, in a ceremony at Mesa, the Army and Boeing are to roll out an even more capable Apache, the Longbow Block III, which has a composite rotor and a better drive train to make it fly better. It also contains improved avionics, including the optional ability to control the sensors and flight path of an unmanned aircraft. The Block III will replace the nearly 700 Apache Block Is and Block IIs now flown by the Army, the first of which came into service in 1997. The first Block III scheduled to deploy overseas in 2013. The last is expected to enter service in 2030 – about the time the services hope to start flying a new kind of aircraft to do The Monster’s job even better.