Boeing Unveils Vision For Future AH-64 Apache Upgrades

Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64
Credit: Nicky Boogaard

Boeing has unveiled a concept for a future version of the AH-64 Apache with avionics and networking upgrades to connect the attack helicopter with the U.S. Army’s strategy for multi-domain operations, as well as the capacity to carry extra sensors and weapons. 

The Modernized Apache Concept builds on the Army’s plans to re-engine the AH-64E with two 3,000shp GE Aviation T901 turboshaft engines and an open system interface in the cockpit. The combination dramatically increases both the lifting and computing power on the aircraft. 

The concept stops short of upgrades that improve the speed or range of the 47-year-old attack helicopter, even as the U.S. Army shifts to a new fleet of longer-range and higher-speed Future Vertical Lift (FVL) rotorcraft to operate in the Pacific region. 

Despite the Army’s plans for development FVL rotorcraft, the AH-64 is scheduled to remain the principal U.S. attack helicopter for the next 25-30 years, Jesse Farrington, Boeing sales and marketing director for attack helicopter programs, told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting on October 10. 

“The tyranny of distance is always going to be a challenge for a rotorcraft,” Farrington said. 

The upgrades build on the baseline set by the AH-64E Version 6.5, which adds the T901 engine. The Modernized Apache Concept adds drivetrain upgrades to allow the helicopter to exploit the 50% increase in power output compared to the existing T700-701D engines, Boeing says. 

A model on the AUSA exhibit floor shows other possibilities for a modernized Apache beyond Version 6.5. The model showed a future AH-64 configuration with extended stub wings to accommodate six pylons, including outboard stations carrying pods for directed energy weapons. The tailrotor featured a new cruciform design with different blades. Boeing officials emphasized that the changes represent ideas only, not funded or approved requirements. In some cases, they have not been analyzed in a wind tunnel. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.