Boeing [BA] has completed the first flight of the newest version of its Apache attack helicopter, the AH-64E Version 6.5, while the company is also looking to the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) to inform development of the next Modernized Apache.

Christina Upah, Boeing’s vice president of attack helicopter programs, told Defense Daily

on Wednesday the next step for AH-64E Version 6.5 will be moving into software baseline verification testing early next year.

AH-64E Apache Version 6.5. Photo: Boeing

 “The Version 6.5 is really building on the Version 6 [software] baseline and making additional improvements to the architecture so it’s an open systems interface. And really it’s that stepping stone to take us to the next generation with our future Modernized Apache,” Upah said during an interview at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “Building that open systems interface is really the stepping off point to take our software to the next level. One of things that we’ll be testing is how we can do more plug-and-play. So in the future, as we’re integrating new technologies and capabilities onto the platform, we’ll be poised and ready to do that much quicker than we have ever done before in the past.”

Mike Reese, Boeing’s senior manager of attack business development, detailed the capability enhancement with Version 6.5, which includes the software upgrades to reduce pilot workload.

“From a pilot’s perspective, it makes some of the systems more intuitive. It’s easier to operate the Link 16 [network]. It’s easier to operate the fire control radar. It’s easier to operate the [manned-unmanned teaming]. It takes some of the button pushes out of the sequence,” Reese said. 

The Army has previously said its targeting fiscal year 2026 to begin fielding the AH-64E Apache Version 6.5 “via retrofit.”

In March, Boeing was awarded the second and expected final multi-year contract for AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the Army, which runs through 2027 and could be worth up to $3.8 billion (Defense Daily, March 22).

Boeing has previously told Defense Daily it “absolutely” believes there will be future procurement deals for Apache beyond the new multi-year award, with Upah echoing that outlook on Wednesday.

“We are absolutely working with the U.S. Army on a post-Multi-Year II contracting mechanism. I won’t tell you what that is because we don’t know, but we are working with the U.S. Army on that. We have a lot of [foreign military sale] customers that are eager to purchase the Apache. So we have some acquisitions to process today. And right now, for Multi-Year II, we have very limited, what we call, slots on our assembly line to support any additional aircraft. So we know there’s going to be something subsequent,” Upah said.

The State Department in August approved a potential $12 billion deal with Poland for nearly 100 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, which followed Warsaw’s announcement last September it had selected Boeing as the winner of its KRUK program to find a replacement for its Mi-24 helicopter fleet (Defense Daily, Aug. 21). 

Reese on Wednesday also detailed how the Army’s FARA program is informing Boeing’s thinking on priorities for Modernized Apache, the next step beyond Version 6.5.

“We’re spending company funds looking at what we can do for our transmission to give pilots more power, to be able to carry more payload and to have more range and endurance and more speed as well. It’s not going be [Future Vertical Lift]-like speed, but it’ll be an increase from the current speed of that aircraft,” Reese said.

FARA is the Army’s program to field a new scout attack helicopter, having selected Bell’s [TXT] 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s [LMT] Raider X designs for the current competitive prototyping phase.

Rodney Davis, the Army’s acting program executive officer for aviation, told reporters on Tuesday he expects the FARA competitive prototypes to start flying by “about the middle of next year,” with both Bell and Sikorsky set to receive the new GE Aviation [GE]-built T901 helicopter engines this month (Defense Daily, Oct. 10). 

TJ Jamison, Boeing’s director of attack business development, said the company sees the Apache operating alongside FARA in the future, to provide Army commanders increased options on the battlefield.

“[The Apache] has always been the premier attack helicopter in the world, no question about it. Now it’s going to become the premier reconnaissance aircraft in the world as well. And combine that with the lethality of its attack capability, it will definitely dominate [multi-domain operations] out into the 2050s,” Jamison said.

Upah said Boeing is focused on expanding the aircraft’s “scout capabilities” with Modernized Apache, adding the company envisions the future platform having “more network capability, long-range precision fires as well as deep sensing.”