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First flight for enhanced AH-64E Apache set to replace Tigers

written by Stephen Kuper | October 12, 2023

Boeing’s latest variant of the AH-64E Apache has successfully completed its first flight, incorporating a range of upgraded capabilities as part of Boeing’s ongoing platform modernisation program.

The upgraded E-model Apache, known as Version 6.5 or V6.5, is the next configuration of the world’s premier attack helicopter. Australia plans to acquire 29 AH-64E Apaches to be built by Boeing as part of the multi-billion-dollar LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program to replace the Army’s troubled ARH Tiger helicopters.

V6.5, awarded by the US Department of Defense in December 2021, includes software updates enhancing capabilities and improving the pilot interface.

US Army Colonel John Maher, Apache project manager for the US Army, welcomed the first successful test flight, saying, “We’re very excited about the ongoing development of the V6.5 software as it paves the way for Apache modernisation.”


Some of the suite of capability enhancements incorporated as part of the V6.5 modernisation include:

  • Optimised route and attack planning.
  • Enhanced Link 16 features.
  • Integration of an open systems interface, setting the stage for Modular Open Systems Approach for maximum interoperability, faster integration, and advanced capabilities fielding.

“V6.5 aligns the entire E-model fleet under the same software, streamlining training and maintenance while providing a pathway for sensor/capability parity, and enables the Army to address mandates and critical technologies. Ensuring relevance into the future is a top priority,” COL Maher added.

Building onto V6.5, the company is working with the US Army to integrate the Improved Turbine Engine (ITE).

The engine, a General Electric Aerospace T901, will offer improvements in reach, available power, time on station, and fuel efficiency, as well as sustainment improvements like health and usage monitoring, maintenance and engine lifespan.

The AH-64E Apache is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters and represents the backbone of the US Army attack helicopter fleet, as well as a growing number of international defence forces.

The twin-engine Apache AH-64E attack helicopter, crewed by a pilot and co-pilot, is designed for the destruction of armoured vehicles, personnel, and material targets in battlefield conditions with a max speed of 164 knots and a range of 260 nautical miles. It traditionally carries an M230 30mm cannon (1,200 rounds), Hydra-70 2.75-inch rockets, and Hellfire missiles.

According to Boeing, there are nearly 1,300 Apaches in operation globally that have accumulated more than 5 million flight hours, 1.3 million of which have been in combat.

The AH-64E variant will be in production until at least 2028 and is set to be the US’s primary attack helicopter into the 2060s. Boeing delivered the first-generation Apache to the US in January 1984 but it made its first flight in 1975.

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