Boeing / Hughes AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter
Despite a first flight in 1975, the Boeing AH-64 Apache is still a highly-advanced attack helicopter over the modern battlefield.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Hughes / McDonnell Douglas / Boeing AH-64 Apache has served American and allied military forces well during her storied operational tenure which officially began in 1986. She went on to see extensive combat actions throughout the 1980s and 1990s across conflicts such as Panama (Operation Just Cause), the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) and the Kosovo War as well as more recently being tied to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Apache is a proven war-winner, having displayed her tank-killing prowess in the Persian Gulf War against the once-formidable armored formations of Saddam Hussein. The Apache family line has amassed over 3 million hours of flight time since its first prototype flight and production of new airframes is still ongoing as of this writing. Over 2,000 Apache attack helicopters have been produced and it is expected that modernization efforts will keep the Apache a viable battlefield implement up through 2020.
The Hughes Name
Hughes Helicopters began operations in 1947 as part of the Hughes Aircraft firm - owned by legendary businessman and aviator Howard Hughes. Hughes Helicopters then came under the Hughes Tool Company in 1955 and was formed into Hughes Helicopter Division as part of the Summa Corporation in 1972. Summa Corporation was started by Howard Hughes after the sale of his Hughes Tool Company that same year (the tool company itself would eventually emerge as "Baker Hughes"). In 1981, Howard Hughes created Hughes Helicopters, Incorporated and, while the AH-64 Apache began life under the "Hughes Helicopters" brand label, the company ultimately became a subsidiary of aviation giant McDonnell Douglas in 1984 and therefore known as McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. In turn, McDonnell Douglas was merged with The Boeing Company in 1997 to become a subsidiary. Today, the AH-64 Apache is formally branded under the Boeing Defense, Space & Security name - or Boeing for short.
The Attack Helicopter
Despite the changing face of the modern battlefield, the attack helicopter has proven time and again to be a critical component to any land-based action. The Vietnam War proved this for the US Army, where transport helicopters were being armed with rockets, cannons, grenade launchers and machine guns and successfully affecting battle outcomes when called. The two-seat Bell AH-1 Cobra dedicated attack helicopter series debuted during the latter stages of the war and further drove home the point through use of rocket pods, triple-barrel cannon, automatic grenade launcher and guided TOW missiles. As attack helicopters are primarily charged with combat actions at low altitudes close to ground fire and other dangers, it becomes highly susceptible to enemy ground fire and thusly viewed as more "fragile" when compared to high-altitude, high-speed fixed-wing aircraft mounts. Despite the ability for strike aircraft to deliver precision weapons at altitude, modern armies still must rely on the precision nature and hovering capabilities of attack helicopters for strike aircraft operate at high speeds and lack adequate loitering times. Thusly, attack helicopters still form a large part of the success of a modern ground force.