RIDLEY PARKPa. – Boeing [BA] has said the first flight of the latest version of the Apache attack helicopter, the AH-64E Version 6.5, will happen at the end of the year and that there is no plan for the upgraded aircraft to fly with the Army’s new General Electric Aviation

[GE]-built T901 helicopter engine.

K.J. Jolivette, Boeing’s vice president and general manager for vertical lift, confirmed to Defense Daily “there is not” a plan for the AH-64E Version 6.5 to be integrated with the GE T901 engine, developed under Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), while the future Modernized Apache is expected to fly with the new engine.

AH 64E ground to air shoot in the Arizona desert (Photo: Boeing)

Jolivette previously said last September the next version of the Apache could be integrated with the ITEP engine and a Boeing news release from March on the attack helicopter reaching 5 million flight hours stated Version 6.5 “will include updated software, and integrating the Army’s new improved turbine engine” (Defense Daily, Sept. 14 2022). 

GE Aviation was awarded a $517 million contract in February 2019 to develop its T901 engine for ITEP, which will eventually power the Army’s AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) platform.

Army officials confirmed in late April that delivery of the ITEP engine to Bell and Sikorsky, the two competitors working on FARA prototypes, is now set for this fall and said they’re “committed” to the system following several delays (Defense Daily, April 28). 

Jolivette told reporters during a media visit to the company’s Ridley Park, Pa., facility on Tuesday that it’s “neck and neck” on who will get the ITEP engines first between the Apache and Black Hawk programs.

The new Version 6.5 update for Apache, which is in development now, is expected to further enhance the aircraft’s Link 16 capability and its ability to do manned-unmanned teaming with different types of unmanned aircraft, Jolivette said.

Boeing has also previously said Version 6.5 continues the attack helicopter’s path to being fully compliant with Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA), including integration of an open system interface, to ensure capability for rapid insertion of new technologies.

“Right now, we don’t have an actual cut-in date of when [Version 6.5] will be cut [into the fleet]. That’ll still be determined based on first flight and what happens on that,” Jolivette told reporters. 

Jolivette said the future Modernized Apache will continue the MOSA approach and incorporate advanced flight controls, an upgraded drive train system and incorporating the ITEP engine.

“We’re listening to the customer. We’re watching Future Vertical Lift. And we just want to make sure Apache is not only relevant today but, as the customer says they want it around through 2050, we want to make sure we’re modernizing it and keeping it relevant through 2050,” Jolivette said.  “The Army still doesn’t have a requirement for it, so there’s a lot to be worked out. But we know it’s time, right?”