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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Army Unit First to Train on Upgraded Block III Apaches

Lt. Col. Edward Vedder using an AH-64D Apache Block III simulator at Boeing’s facility in Mesa, Ariz.

The U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, part of the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, has become the first unit to fly the Boeing Apache Block III. Pilots flying the Block III, which features 26 new technological upgrades, will receive three weeks of training on the revamped helicopters at Boeing’s facility in Mesa, Ariz.

Lt. Col. Edward Vedder, commander of the 1-1 ARB, explains that there are new components to the helicopter. “There is new head tracker, a new helmet and new flight pages. It doesn’t take additional skills to fly it, but the aircraft is significantly different.”

Vedder is one of the first 10 Apache pilots to undergo Block III training in Arizona. He also has the distinction of having flown all three incarnations of the Apache—the AH-64A Block I and AH-64D Longbow Block II, in addition to the current iteration.

“At Block II, it has a certain level of power when you pick it up. This is totally different,” notes Vedder. “When you pick this aircraft up you are going to immediately feel the power difference.” The Block III variant also comes with the ability to communicate with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and its controllers, as well as watching the UAV video feed and taking control of the UAV, should the situation warrant it.

The unit currently has 85 Apache pilots that will require training on the Block III. The first 75 will train in Mesa, with the remainder handled via mobile training at Fort Riley, Kan. All pilots will be trained on the Block III prior to their next deployment. —Information from Sgt. Jeff Troth contributed to this report.

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