Boeing is testing possible modifications to its AH-64E Apache attack helicopter that could provide increased speed and less drag.
These modifications, known as AH-64E Block 2 Compound, feature a large fixed-wing, rearward-pointing exhaust, a downward-pointing vertical fin, and a pusher propeller in the rear. The aircraft keeps the tail rotor for anti-torque. These modifications are being tested at Boeing’s wind tunnel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 30% scale. The tests are expected to wrap up by January.
Boeing believes these modifications would provide 50% more speed and range, twice the lifespan, and 24% better fuel efficiency for a 20% increase in price. The current AH-64E features upward pointing exhaust, an upward-pointing vertical fin, and only stub wings for carrying weapons.
Randy Bregger, Boeing Advanced Apache programme manager, told the Vertical Flight Society’s Helicopter Military Operations Technology (HELMOT) conference in Virginia on 25 October that the company is hoping these modifications would attract the US Army to buy the aircraft and bridge an expected production gap between when AH-64E production ends around 2032 and the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) attack aircraft reaches initial operational capability (IOC) around 2045.
Bregger said that adding the fixed wing takes some of the load off the main rotor while adding the pusher propeller increases the airspeed and efficiency. Adding the fixed wing also contributes to the 23% increase in range.
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