MESA, Ariz. — Boeing [BA] is not working right now on an F-model of its Apache attack helicopter, the company’s lead program official told reporters on Monday, while detailing its focus on the AH-64E’s upcoming ‘Version 6X’ update.
“Right now, we don’t have an F-model in work. When we hear the Army talk about [Multi-Domain Operations]-capable aircraft, we have a lot of those capabilities on Apache today. So we’re trying to figure out what is the rest of the way because because we think Apache could be a great testbed for Future Vertical Lift technology,” Kathleen “KJ” Jolivette, Boeing’s vice president of attack helicopters, said during a media visit here where the company builds the platform.
Ted Colbert, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, echoed Jolivette’s remarks and added the company’s focus is on working with the Army to meet requirements for future Apache upgrades.
“We’re trying to get through where we are today and to stay in line with [the Army] on the future side. I won’t be specific on that, for sure. But just know that we are trying to stay very connected to their needs and requirements and we’ll adapt as and when they’re ready for us to adapt to the next model,” Colbert said.
Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence, said in April he doesn’t see plans right now for an F-model of the Apache as the Army is still working through fielding the AH-64E Version 6, which he called “the most modern attack helicopter that we have” (Defense Daily, April 4).
“Will there be an F-model Apache? I don’t see that necessarily right now. Will we do targeted modernization of all those fleets over time as funding becomes available? Yes,” Francis said at the time.
Jolivette noted the company is under contract with the Army now to develop the next Apache upgrade, the Version 6X (V6X), which she said is expected to be powered by the new General Electric Aviation [GE]-built T901 engine.
The Army in July concluded testing of the first T901 engine, which was developed under the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) and will eventually power the service’s Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as well as its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (Defense Daily, July 7).
“I think [the ITEP engine] is a key centerpiece of our future. With the Apache, it brings a lot of capability when it comes to performance of the aircraft. So we’re looking forward to that,” Jessie Farrington, Boeing’s business development director for attack helicopter programs, told reporters on Monday.
Farrington said the V6X update for Apache will continue the attack helicopter’s path being fully compliant with Modular Open Systems Architecture, including integration of an open system interface, to ensure capability for rapid insertion of new technologies.
“There is no stated end of service life for Apache. The Army knows the Apache is going to be the principal attack helicopter for now and into the future. We know that the Apache is going to be around for probably three decades, 30-plus years,” Farrington said.
The current V6 update for the AH-64 included fire control radar and data-link improvements and an integrating an upgraded AN/APR-48B Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometer.
During the visit, Jolivette also told reporters Boeing is “out to change [the Army’s] mind” on the service’s plan that the next multi-year contract, set to be awarded in late fall, is expected to be the last such procurement deal for the aircraft (Defense Daily, Sept 13).