The AH-64 Apache Helicopter

This is the Army's primary attack helicopter

••• Official Army Photo

The AH-64 Apache helicopter is the Army’s primary attack helicopter, and is considered the most durable helicopter in military aviation history. Made by the Boeing Co., the Apache first entered Army service in 1984. It's built for combat situations and can withstand rounds as large as 23 mm. 

The Apache has been an active part of  nearly all Army operations since its introduction, playing a particularly key role in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Crew and Artillery of the Apache Helicopter

The 50-foot-long Apache flies with a crew of two: a pilot and co-pilot gunner. They carry out armed reconnaissance missions. The helicopter has radar-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles, an arsenal with which to complete its primary mission: destroying high-value targets with precision strikes.

It does that job with a Target Acquisition Designation System (TADS) tied to the head movements of the pilots so that the cameras point where they look.

The system includes a night vision sensor, a laser range finder and laser target designator, a thermal imaging infrared camera, and a daylight television camera. Images from TADS are superimposed onto the crew’s helmet-mounted optical sights.

Apache Versus the Black Hawk Helicopter

The Apache is one of two well-known Army helicopters, the other being the Black Hawk helicopter, named for the Native American warrior. The Black Hawk has been part of Army operations since 1974, entering formal service in 1978. 

While the Black Hawk is known for its quiet flight and durability, it's louder and slower than the Apache. Where the Apache holds a crew of two soldiers, the Black Hawk holds a crew of up to five. 

The Black Hawk is primarily used for transporting troops and materials, while the Apache is built for combat, specifically for attack missions. So while some pilots prefer one over the other, the two choppers are designed for different purposes.

Apache Helicopters in Action

Apaches fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm, a military campaign launched against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Eight helicopters, manned by pilots from the 101st Airborne Division, flew 90 miles from their base in Saudi Arabia, observing a radio blackout until 10 seconds before hitting their targets.

The choppers destroyed early-warning radar installations in western Iraq, clearing the way for 1,000 U.S. Air Force jets to cross undetected into that nation for bombing runs.

Next-Generation Apache

The makers of the helicopter introduced a next-generation model, the Apache Longbow, in 1997. It uses a millimeter wave radar system for targeting that is four times more accurate and seven times safer than the original.

The chopper’s onboard computer system can identify more than 128 potential targets and winnow that down to the 16 most important, which it then transmits to other helicopters in the assault team. Based on the data, an attack can be launched within 30 seconds of the radar scan.

The Apache is armed with an M261 rocket launcher with 19 tubes. Both the Apache and Apache Longbow use dual General Electric T700-GE-701 1698 shp turboshaft engines and feature a four-blade articulated rotor system.