Apache 'Guardian' wins praise from pilots

Military News
Friday, November 29, 2013 - 10:02pm

The newest model of the Apache helicopter, the AH-64E Apache Guardian, was delivered to Soldiers in January.

Since that time, pilots of 1st Squadron, 229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, have had nothing but praise for it, said Lt. Col. John P. "Pat" Davis, the battalion commander, who said the pilots flew the helicopter during a period of time with a particularly high operations tempo.

That high OPTEMPO includes three rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training in Idaho; and the Operation Rising Thunder exercise at Yakima Training Center, Wash. In the latter exercise, 1-229 pilots trained with their Japan Air Self-Defense Force counterparts, who were flying AH-64D Apache Longbow model.

The 1-229, located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is the first Army unit to field AH-64E. They own 24. The 1-25th ARB out of Fort Carson, Colo., also received the aircraft.

Together, the two units racked up some 6,000 flying hours in it, said Lt. Col. Tal Sheppard, Apache product manager, Program Executive Office Aviation.

Altogether, the Apache has logged some 3.7 million flight hours since it was first fielded to Army units in 1984, and it has a proven track record of accomplishments in times of war and peace, said Sheppard, who called it the "world's premier attack helicopter."

The Apache is a twin-engine, four bladed, multi-mission attack helicopter. It carries a pilot and a co-pilot gunner. It carries an M230E1 chain gun, 30mm automatic gun, an aerial rocket system (2.75 inch folding fin), and Hellfire missiles.

Its speed is 164 knots, with a range of 250 nautical miles. Sheppard said the Guardian flies faster and farther than its predecessors, and also has upgraded communications systems. Also, key to the open system architecture of the AH-64E model, is its interoperability with unmanned aircraft systems. This means that the pilot can now control the flight path, weapons system, and sensors of a UAS.

Sheppard added that the older models still in service are doing an outstanding job.

Although the Guardian has not yet seen combat, other Apache helicopters are and have and Sheppard said he expects the AH-64E to see combat soon.

"Right now there are Soldiers out there in harm's way and they know everything is going to be alright when they hear that Apache flying over the horizon," said Col. Jeffrey Hager, project manager for the Apache.

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