Pilots train on new AH-64D Apache helicopter

FORT RILEY, Kan. — A new heli­copter is com­ing to the Block. The 1st Attack Recon­nais­sance Bat­tal­ion, 1st Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment, Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, is the first unit in the Army to have their entire fleet of Apache heli­copters replaced with the com­pre­hen­sive­ly upgrad­ed Apache (AH-64D) Block III begin­ning in Feb­ru­ary.

 Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shawn Witt lifts off in an AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter from Boeing's flight line in Mesa, Ariz.
Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Shawn Witt lifts off in an AH-64D Apache Block III heli­copter from Boeing’s flight line in Mesa, Ariz.
Click to enlarge

“There are new com­po­nents to the air­craft — new head track­er, a new hel­met and new flight pages,” said Lt. Col. Edward Ved­der, 1st Attack Recon­nais­sance Bn., com­man­der. “It takes some get­ting used to.”

The Apache Block III incor­po­rates 26 new tech­nolo­gies designed to enhance the aircraft’s capa­bil­i­ties includ­ing an updat­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem, engines, trans­mis­sion and dri­ve shaft. The com­pos­ite rotor blades have also been reworked to make them more effi­cient and pro­duce more lift.

“It does­n’t take addi­tion­al skills to fly it, but the air­craft is sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent,” said Ved­der.

Because of these dif­fer­ences the 1–1 pilots are going back to school and receiv­ing three weeks of train­ing at Boeing’s facil­i­ty in Mesa, Ariz., where the air­craft is man­u­fac­tured. The pilots get 28 hours of aca­d­e­mics, 24 hours in the new sim­u­la­tor and 8.5 hours fly­ing in the Block III heli­copter. Main­te­nance test pilots get an addi­tion­al 22 hours of aca­d­e­mics and three addi­tion­al hours in the air­craft.

“The train­ing is packed into a busy three-week sched­ule,” said Shawn Hopan, the train­ing lead for Boeing’s Apache pro­gram manager’s office. “We only train cur­rent­ly qual­i­fied Apache pilots.”

Even for the expe­ri­enced pilots like Ved­der, who has flown Apach­es since 1995, the new Block III took some get­ting used to.

“A Block II, it has a cer­tain lev­el of pow­er when you pick it up. This is total­ly dif­fer­ent,” explained Ved­der, who has flown in all three pre­de­ces­sors, includ­ing the AH-64A and the AH-64D Long­bow — Block I and block II, to the Block III. “When you pick this air­craft up you are going to imme­di­ate­ly feel the pow­er dif­fer­ence and when you go into for­ward flight it wants to go about 150 MPH.

“It has a lot of pow­er and is by far the most pow­er­ful and most impres­sive of them all,” he said.

While at the Mesa facil­i­ty the pilots not only became qual­i­fied on the new Apache, but also got to meet the Boe­ing peo­ple who designed and are build­ing the air­craft.

“It is an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty to come out here and learn and see every­thing, (to) get to see the oth­er side where the air­craft came from,” said Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Shawn Witt. “You get to see the peo­ple behind the scenes, who put in a lot of time and ener­gy so that we can have this piece of equip­ment in order to do our job.”

The new Apache has a cou­ple added fea­tures which will allow Witt and oth­er Apache pilots to do their job in inclement weath­er. The heli­copters now have the capa­bil­i­ty to fly in weath­er con­di­tions that pre­vi­ous­ly would have ground­ed them.

“In the past if we had to get some­where we had to wait for the weath­er to clear. Now we have capa­bil­i­ty, much like the Black Hawks and Chi­nooks, to launch air­craft and fly in the clouds,” Ved­der said. “The Block III has an instru­ment pack­age that rivals a 747. It is fan­tas­tic and very intu­itive to fly.”

But the new Apache has the abil­i­ty to do some­thing the 747 can­not.

“The Block III is able to com­mu­ni­cate with unmanned air­craft, the pilots are able to see the UAV’s video,” Hopan said. “To my knowl­edge no oth­er air­craft has this capa­bil­i­ty.”

“Team­ing up with the UAV is essen­tial­ly anoth­er air­craft out there work­ing with us to give us a bet­ter angle, bet­ter pic­ture of what is hap­pen­ing,” said Witt. “This makes for a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion for the war fight­ers on the ground because we have more infor­ma­tion.”

But see­ing what the UAV sees is not the extent of this new capa­bil­i­ty. With a cou­ple taps on their com­put­ers the Apache pilots can take con­trol of the UAV, elim­i­nat­ing the time need­ed to tell the UAV oper­a­tor where the pilots need the UAV to “look.”

“It’s an extra work­load for us, but it is very work­able and man­age­able,” said Witt. “It is a real­ly good sys­tem that they have worked out here for us.”

Ved­der and Witt were two of the first 10 Apache pilots who went through Boeing’s class on the Block III. Five were from 1–1, while the oth­ers were from Fort Ruck­er, Ala.

The “Gun­fight­ers” have 70 Apache pilot slots and there are an addi­tion­al 15 Apache pilot slots in the CAB. They all need the train­ing before they can start fly­ing the new air­craft.

Sev­en­ty-five of these pilots will get their train­ing at the Mesa facil­i­ty, while the rest will be trained at Fort Riley by a mobile train­ing team lat­er in 2012. This train­ing sched­ule will ensure that all Apache pilots in the brigade are trained on the Block III before their next deploy­ment.

“The Block III gives us the abil­i­ty to get where we are need­ed very fast, much faster than we ever have before. And, with the inte­gra­tion of the UAV sen­sor we can be more informed when we show up to pro­vide lethal effects in sup­port of the ground forces,” said Ved­der.” It is real­ly going to change the game for attack avi­a­tion.”

Source:
U.S. Army

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →