Apache helicopter

U.S. Army antiarmor attack helicopter.

Equipment and Armament

The Apache is the U.S. Army’s principal attack and antiarmor helicopter. It carries a crew of two, seated in tandem. The pilot sits in the rear seat, behind the copilot-gunner. Two General Electric T700-701C turboshaft engines that produce a total of nearly 4,000 horsepower provide power to the four-bladed, 48-foot diameter main rotor. Mission gross weight for the AH-64A is approximately 14,600 pounds, while for the AH-64D it is approximately 16,100 pounds. Top speed for the Apache is 167 knots.

Standard armament for the Apache consists of a 30-millimeter chain gun, located on the chin of the fuselage, and various combinations of other weapons which are attached to four weapons stations on the stub wings. These other weapons include the Hellfire and Hellfire II air-to-ground missile (four per weapons station) and the 70-millimeter Hydra rocket system (nineteen per weapons station). External fuel tanks (230 gallons each) to extend the range of the Apache may also be attached to the weapons stations.

The AH-64A Apache is also equipped with a target acquisition designation system (TADS) and pilot night vision system (PNVS), which are located on the nose of the aircraft. The TADS/PNVS are used in conjunction with the integrated helmet and display sight system (IHADSS) to allow the Apache to navigate and conduct precision attacks by day, by night, and in adverse weather conditions.

The AH-64D Longbow Apache is a remanufactured and upgraded version of the AH-64A. A remanufactured craft is completely stripped and then rebuilt with almost entirely new components. To many observers, the D model of the Apache appears to be identical to the A model. However, there are two observable differences. First, the forward avionics bays on the AH-64A are extended and expanded on the AH-64D to accommodate additional electronic components. Second, the Longbow Apache is equipped with a mast-mounted assembly, located above the main rotor, which accommodates the Longbow fire control radar. While the external differences between the AH-64A and AH-64D are minimal, the internal upgrades have made the Longbow Apache a much more capable weapon system. The Longbow fire control radar has the ability to detect, classify, and prioritize targets both on the ground and in the air. It also supports fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles, that is, missiles the gunner need not track until they hit the target. The all-new suite of digital instrumentation in the cockpit enhances the situational awareness of the pilot. Navigation is improved with a Global Positioning System (GPS).


Although AH-64’s are currently built by the Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona, the Apache program has changed hands twice since it began in the early 1970’s. In 1973, Hughes Helicopter Company won a contract to design an advanced attack helicopter for the U.S. Army. The Hughes Model 77 (YAH-64) made its first flight on September 30, 1975. In competition with the YAH-64 was the Model 409 (YAH-63) proposed by Bell Helicopter Company. In 1976, the U.S. Army awarded a full-scale development contract to Hughes to build the AH-64. The contract was completed in 1981 and, in 1982, the Army awarded Hughes a production contract for the aircraft now known as the AH-64A Apache.

In January, 1984, just before the February delivery of the first production Apache helicopter to the U.S. Army, McDonnell Douglas Corporation bought Hughes Helicopter Company. McDonnell Douglas then moved the Apache assembly facility from Culver City, California, to Mesa, Arizona. A total of 821 Apaches were delivered to the U.S. Army before production was transitioned to the AH-64D in 1997. International sales of Apache helicopters have included the nations of Israel, Egypt, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and South Korea.

In the late 1980’s, McDonnell Douglas began developing an advanced model of the Apache, which became known as the AH-64D Longbow Apache. The Longbow Apache made its first flight on April 15, 1992, and in 1996, McDonnell Douglas received a multiyear contract from the U.S. Army to remanufacture 232 AH-64A helicopters. The Boeing Company subsequently acquired McDonnell Douglas in August, 1997. In addition to the aircraft purchased by the U.S. Army, AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters have been sold to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Combat Performance

The AH-64A has participated in two major conflicts, as well as performing peacekeeping duties in Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1989, Apache helicopters played a key role in Operation Just Cause in Panama. Since much of the activity was at night, the advanced sensor and sighting capabilities of the Apache proved to be very effective against the antigovernment forces.

Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, provided an opportunity for the Apache to truly show off its capabilities. During the first hours of the war, Apaches destroyed key Iraqi radar sites, which allowed Coalition aircraft to penetrate deep into Iraqi territory without detection. In the course of the land battle, Apaches were credited with destroying more than five hundred Iraqi tanks and hundreds of armored personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles. Only one Apache was lost to enemy fire.


  • Hirshberg, Michael J. The American Helicopter: An Overview of Helicopter Developments in America, 1908-1999. Arlington, Va.: ANSER, 2000. Historical account of helicopter developments in the twentieth century, with pictures and descriptions of many different designs.
  • Jackson, Paul, ed. Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, 2000-2001. 91st ed. Alexandria, Va.: Jane’s Information Group, 2000. The definitive source for aircraft photographs and specifications.
  • Sweetman, Bill. Attack Helicopters: The AH-64 Apaches. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone High-Interest Books, 2001. Contains descriptions and photos of the Apache helicopter.


Gulf War


McDonnell Douglas

Military flight