Designed in 1972 to meet the US Army's need for an AAH (Advanced Attack Helicopter), the AH-64A has taken over the mantle of the world's premier attack helicopter from the Bell AH-1 HueyCobra. The first Hughes YAH-64 prototype flew on 30 September 1975, the programme coming under the jurisdiction of McDonnell Douglas from August 1985 and Boeing from 1997.
Features of the Apache include two T700 engines flat-rated to provide high emergency power, with large Black Hole IR-suppressing exhaust systems, a large flat-plate canopy with boran armour, multi-spar stainless steel and glassfibre rotor blades designed to withstand 23-mm hits, comprehensive avionics and weapon fits, and numerous features to protect the crew, including crash-resistant seats and an airframe designed to withstand ballistic impact from guns up to 12.7-mm caliber.
The Apache's primary sensor is the Martin Marietta TADS/PNVS (Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/Pilot's Night Vision System) that combines a low-light level TV, laser designator and FLIR (forward-looking infra-red). Both crew members use various sophisticated sensors and systems for the detection and attack of targets, including the IHADSS (Integrated Helmet And Display Sighting System) which provides a monocular helmet-mounted designator/sight.
Some 827 AH-64As were eventually procured by the US Army and the helicopter entered service in July 1986. The helicopter was first blooded in combat during Operation Just Cause over Panama in December 1989, and went on to serve with devastating effect during the 1991 Gulf War - Apaches fired the first shots of that short-lived conflict. AH-64As have been exported to Egypt, Greece, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The AH-64D is an upgraded version, also known as the Longbow Apache, witted new fire control radar. This attack helicopter is compatible with the latest Hellfire 2 missiles.