WASHINGTON — Boeing has flown a new version of the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter with upgraded capabilities, the company announced Oct. 11 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
The Version 6.5 attack helicopter, which Boeing went under contract to produce with the U.S. Army in December 2021, includes software updates and improvements to the pilot interface, Boeing said in a statement.
Some upgrades are an optimized route and attack planning capability, enhanced Link 16 features, and an open-systems architecture that will allow for easy technology insertion later on, the company noted.
“We’re very excited about the ongoing development of the V6.5 software as it paves the way for Apache modernization,” Col. Jay Maher, the U.S. Army’s Apache project manager, said in the statement. “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.”
The company is also now working with the Army to integrate the new T901, the engine for the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program, built by General Electric Aerospace, Boeing said. The T901, which is intended to replace the engines in Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and will be used in the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, was delayed by more than a year due to issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ITEP engine along with drivetrain and tail rotor improvements will allow the aircraft to fly 135 nautical miles to an objective and stay there for an hour or more and return. The current Apache would likely be able to stay out at an objective for roughly 30 minutes, Boeing has said.
The Army fielded Apache Version 6 helicopters to units beginning in 2021.
Boeing is also looking at upgrade options beyond what is currently on contract. Earlier this year, the company displayed an Apache model at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, with an additional wing pylon to provide additional weapons in a greater variety onboard.
The company also showed a concept for a directed-energy capability on one of the pylons.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.