The first six of some 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters produced by Boeing [BA] have arrived in Taiwan under a $2 billion deal under then-President George W. Bush that included other defense items.

When the helicopters become operational next April, according to published reports, Taiwan will be the first international operator of the advanced attack helicopter.

Apache Attack Helicopter Photo: Boeing

In 2008, at the time of the proposed sale, China responded negatively, because it considers Taiwan a renegade province. Then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) regretted the negative reaction while the sale would answer Taiwan’s defense needs and promote a healthy balance in the Taiwan Straits. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) welcomed the sale and urged it include more weapon systems (

Defense Daily, Oct. 9, 2008). 

Now, the only Apache attack helicopter Boeing is producing is the newest model, the AH-64E Guardian, the Army project manager said at a recent conference.

The AH-64D line is done, there are “no more in production” as of September, said Col. Jeffrey Hager, project manager, Apache attack helicopter.

There had been two production lines moving D and E models but now there is only the E line.

The first unit equipped with the AH-64E–the First of the 229th at Joint Base Lewis McCord in the state of Washington–is working toward an Initial Operational Capability in November at the National Training Center, Calif.

The E model also has been fielded to the 1st Battalion of the 25th Aviation Regiment at Ft. Carson, Colo. 

To date, 43 AH-64E helicopters have been delivered of 51 aircraft under the Low-Rate Initial Production contract, Hager said. “The next step is ship set 44, when a brand new fuselage comes in.” The 43 delivered aircraft are remanufactured and reused airframes.

Full-rate production for the E model is expected in 2014.

As of September, Apaches have flown 3.7 million fleet hours. Of those, 5,810 have been in AH-64E, Hager said. More than 1 million hours have been flown in combat. 

It is critical to keep maintenance going, he said, because the Apache is projected in service out to 2026, so it is vital to keep AH-64 Delta and Echo models maintained and sustained.

There is ongoing system development and design as production moves forward on the Echo models and two more capabilities are coming along that will be introduced in Lot 4 and Lot 6, Hager said.

Lot 4 will introduce the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) following test and evaluation, which has been proven with the First of the 229th. TCDL will be used as part of manned-unmanned teaming.

Level 2 manned-unmanned teaming that allows transmitting both Apache and Unmanned Aerial System video to soldiers on the ground and ship-to-ship has been used in combat on the AH-64D, Hager said.

Boeing’s “MIST” –Modernization Integration Strategy Team–works technology to keep aircraft relevant, and is looking at capabilities into the future. For example, he said, Lot 4 and 6 are mid-term solutions, while a long-term solution would be looking at future vertical lift.

“Apache will be around so it needs to be viable and maintainable,” Hager said.

David Koopersmith, vice president, Attack Helicopter Programs, said there are 12 international Apache customers. “We will deliver about 90 aircraft–52 will be Echo models, and of those 30 will be for Foreign Military Sales.”

He added, “We’re finding it more reliable, capable, and significantly more lethal than the aircraft it replaces.” The company is working to invest in technology that is viable in the future. TCDL comes in Lot 4 for the E model, and in Lot 6 comes a multicore mission processor.

The company is moving forward to complete a contract with India for the Apache, which was selected for its attack helicopter competition. Indonesia wants eight aircraft, and there is a potential Letter of Agreement with Qatar.

“We’re driving forward,” Koopersmith said. “The focus now is on accelerating production of the E model–to add capability and drive cost down.”

Tim Sassenrath, head of global services and support for Apache, said maintenance is experiencing high operational readiness rates with little down time. The work is to see how to reduce supplier costs and leverage the power of the entire Boeing company efforts to reduce cost and find ways to reduce sustainment costs.