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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Boeing Expands AH-64 Apache Block III Market for Overseas Militaries

By Douglas Nelms

Boeing is close to signing a deal with another international defense force as a new customer for the AH-64D Block III, although it is premature to say which one, when or how many, according to Mike Burke, director of business development for attack helicopter programs. During presentations at the Dubai Airshow in November, Burke said the company is also in discussions with another Middle Eastern armed forces to upgrade its Block II Apaches to the Block III level. UAE currently operates 30 Apaches that were recently upgraded to Block II.

Burke also noted that the AH-64D Block III is the “last man standing” in an Indian Defense Ministry competition for a new attack helicopter. The Defense Ministry has reportedly eliminated all other competitors, with the latest being the Russian Mi-28N. However, no contract for the Indian attack helicopter Block III aircraft had been signed as of mid-November. India is seeking a fleet of 22 new attack helicopters, according to reports.

Taiwan, Boeing’s first export customer for the Block III Apache, has ordered 30 of the attack helicopters, with the first one—a trainer—scheduled for handover in mid-2012. Deliveries of the remaining 29 aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2013. Burke noted that the U.S. Army has received the first two AH-64D Block III Apaches a month ahead of schedule under the low rate initial production (LRIP) program. The LRIP calls for 51 Block III Apaches to be delivered, with a total acquisition plan for 690 aircraft.

A major change to the Block III over previous versions is an upgraded transmission that is 20 percent stronger, featuring a split-torque face gear transmission, which allows an increase in thrust of the twin T700-701D engine from 2,800 to 3,400 shp. Boeing has also integrated an enhanced digital electronic control unit into the engine. The increase in thrust, combined with a new, stronger composite blade, also allows a 25-knot increase in speed and more than 560-lb increase in payload at 6K/95F.

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