AH-64E with Gray eagle

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.: Manned-Unmanned Teaming, when manned aircraft crews control drones from their cockpit, is a child of the drone revolution still in its infancy. So maybe it’s no surprise that Army Apache helicopter units with new AH-64Es equipped to control MQ-1C Grey Eagle armed drones have gotten off to a crawl rather than a run using… Keep reading →

Most Apache units, both active-duty and Guard, have spent the last decade operating in two-gunship teams like this one, not the larger formations required for conventional wars.

“To be honest, we feel betrayed.” That’s what one National Guard gunship pilot told me when I asked him about the Army’s plan to strip the Guard of all its AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. That plan — still awaiting approval by President Obama before he includes it in his budget request for fiscal year 2015… Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: The Secretary of the Army defended today what he admitted was “an unconventional approach” to fielding the service’s cutting-edge AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter, saying the only alternative to the current complex workaround would have been to “shut the line down” for a time.

“I will grant the unconventionality of it,” John McHugh said. “You could say it was an unconventional approach, but it was an unconventional situation.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: The Army’s problem with its new Apache helicopters isn’t as bad as we thought when we first wrote about it last week. It’s worse.

We knew that Northstar Aerospace, the subcontractor making the transmissions for lead contractor Boeing, had fallen behind on building that crucial component. We knew at least seven of the latest model, the vaunted AH-64E Apache Guardian, had been built at some point without transmissions, rendering them unflyable until the part was finally installed. Keep reading →

The Army’s newest attack helicopter is on track, the colonel in charge said in response to congressional concerns: Delays in manufacturing transmissions for the Boeing-built AH-64E Guardian have neither driven up the price nor slowed its fielding to combat units.

[But there are still unflyable AH-64Es on the Army’s hands: click here to read the latest on this story] Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: Congress has asked the Army to explain why it has officially taken delivery of at least seven AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters that don’t have transmissions installed yet, Breaking Defense has learned. An unidentified subcontractor to Boeing which makes the helicopter, fell behind on building the transmissions and is now trying to catch up, but until it does, the high-tech gunships are unflyable.

[Click here for the Army’s response and click here for relevations from Congress] Keep reading →

Loren Thompson on budget agonies over Army’s AH-64E Apache Guardian: http://bit.ly/13Vb58W. Our look at helicopter hurdles overall: http://aol.it/YsYt4o @SydneyFreedberg

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: Many new threats, but few new weapons to meet them. That’s what the cash-strapped future holds for the entire Army, but especially for the service’s most expensive branch, the helicopter corps.

So the challenge is to teach old birds new tricks. As budgets tighten, the service’s strategy to keep up with the threat relies not on buying new helicopters but on upgrading the existing ones — and on flying them with new tactics in concert with unmanned drones. Keep reading →

The Army has altered the name of the latest-model Apache attack helicopter for the second time in recent months — and once again missed a grand opportunity.

[Click here for our full coverage of the challenges facing Army aviation as it flies into an uncertain and fiscally tight future] Keep reading →

AUSA: The Army has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce that from that day on, the Block III version of Boeing Co.’s AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter will instead be designated the AH-64E. Program officials will make the announcement at this year’s annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army, the largest yearly meeting of top service and industry officials.

The Army decided to replace “AH-64D Block III” with “AH-64E” after the Defense Acquisition Board, a high-level Pentagon committee, approved full rate production in August. The Army, which plans to buy 690 AH-64Es, decided the new designation is warranted because the soon-to-be “Echo” model of the Apache has so much more capability than the AH-64D Block I’s and Block II’s it’s replacing, the first of which came into service in 1997. Keep reading →