New Delhi: India inducted eight of the 22 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters to its arsenal. While everyone is talking about its weapons, there are certain other things which makes it a formidable weapon platform of the world.
One of the most important parts of an attack helicopter is its survivability. Since they operate in close support to the ground forces usually, their vulnerability to ground-based systems and enemy air force are a weak point. So, let’s discuss the top eight capabilities of AH-64E which display how an attack helicopter can be converted into an extreme killing machine.
- Armour Plating & Structure of the Helicopter- The entire helicopter is made up of boron plated structural steel armour. As a result, the entire helicopter can withstand 12.7mm calibre rounds which are used by Anti-Aircraft Guns mounted on Tanks and armoured vehicles. Not only this, the main rotor & Engine Compartments are reinforced with heavy Kevlar lining making it withstand even 23mm Armour Piercing rounds. Nevertheless, to say that the Bullet-Proof Glass Canopy of the cockpit which can withstand heavy fire too. The seats for Pilot & Co-Pilot are further lined with Heavy Kevlar ensuring greater survivability for them. The architecture of the helicopter is made in such a way that in case of a crash, the structure around cockpit gets collapsed absorbing most of the impact force ensuring greater survivability of the crew.
- High Manoeuvrability- with two powerful T700-GE-701D Engines which generates high 1994 SHP power along with Composite Blade rotors. This gives Apache AH64E has very high manoeuvrability. While it can perform Barrel Rolls & Loop Formation, the helicopter can fly extreme neck of the earth manoeuvres. It has a high thrust to weight ratio which helps it in doing this while fully loaded with Weapons & fuel. Such capabilities help Apache evade enemy aircraft & Air-Defence Systems.
- Top of the line Datalink & Communication- All the new AH64E are equipped with TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) based Secure, Jamming Resistant, High-Speed digital data network which is using Link -16, an integral part of American Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). JTIDS allows multiple platforms to connect & use a single secure communication data channel. Apache can be connected to the UAVs, AWACS or Ground-based Air Control systems in a real-time scenario. Which means though it does not have sensors to look for far distances, all the elements can be integrated to provide it with real-time battlefield scenario.
- Improved Targeting system– The new AH-64E is fitted with Arrowhead targeting system which is an electro-optical fire control system. It involves multiple sensors including Long-range Forward-Looking Infra-Red Radar which maps thermographic information of any vehicle, personal or other activities on the ground. It has three fields of view with a wide 120-degree angle of coverage. Arrowhead system also has improved Pilot Night Vision System (PNVS) integrated with the helmet of Pilot & Co-Pilot. This facilitates flying in the night too. Arrowhead also has an advanced Target Acquisition & Detection system involving multiple sensors & sights. These sensors include electro-optical sensors, Laser Range Finders, Laser Designators & various target identification & designation suites. The arrowhead & its sensors also help Apache fly in the conditions of extreme snow & dust storms making its survival in extreme weather possible.
- Helmet mounted display & targeting system- This advanced system was usually seen in the 4th or 5th Generation Fighter aircraft. Here the Targeting system is integrated with the Pilot & Co-pilots helmets where they can see the visuals in a 40-degree by 30-degree field of view. The gun is integrated into the helmet movements & weapon system operator can effectively see the target to engage it. He can also engage other aerial or ground-based targets using weapons systems like Hellfire Missile, Hydra rocket pods & Stinger Missiles through this helmet-mounted display.
- Electronic Warfare Suite-Boeing has integrated an advanced Suite of Integrated Radio-Frequency Electronic Countermeasures in Apache helicopter. This includes a Radar Warning Receiver & an active Jammer which can jam both communication and non-communication (Radar) frequencies. It also has an ALQ-144 Infra-red Jammer which is fitted on top of the helicopter. It emits a high amount of modulated Infra-red energy in high energy pulses. It will first stop any operator from locking on to the helicopter and even if the missile has achieved a lock on, the IR pulses will steer the missile away from the helicopter. In addition to these, the helicopter is fitted with common systems like Chaff & Flares. On top of all these, this helicopter is specially fitted with “Blackhole Infrared Suppression System”. This system works on three principles- First, it reduces the exhaust temperature from 600- Degree Celsius to 300 Degree-Celsius. Secondly it shields the exhaust by rotating it upwards so that it is not visible to ground-based systems and thirdly it dissipates the heat to the entire body of Apache & mixes it with cool air. This results in achieving an almost-invisibility from Infra-red sensors & Missiles.
- AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar– This is one of the most advanced radars in this category and is located above the rotors. It’s an extremely high frequency (EHF) radar which works on millimetric wave principle. Ironically the person who first introduced Millimetric wave concept to the world was none other than Prof Jagadish Chandra Bose- an eminent Indian Scientist. With a range of 12 Kms, it can effectively track up-to 256 targets at a time & engage 16 in one time using its advanced technique. With an ultra-fast reaction time of 30 seconds, no target can run away from this radar. It also shares the data with ground-based systems in a real-time scenario automatically.
- Weapon Systems- Lastly but not the least, we explain the different weapon system combinations on this helicopter. The Primary weapon is an M-230 Chain Gun which can carry up to 1200 30mm Rounds with a 625 RPM rate of fire. This helicopter has a total of four underwing weapon pylons (two under each Wing) & two Wingtip Stations on each wingtip. The wingtip stations can carry total four (Two on each Station) AIM-92 Stinger Air to Air missile to counter any incoming enemy aircraft or helicopter. It can acquire &destroy a target at 8 Km range. As far as Four weapon Pylons are concerned, each one of them can carry either a cassette of four AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles or a Rocket pod carrying 19 Hydra-70mm unguided rockets. AGM-114 Hellfire is guided by AN/APG-78 Longbow radar & can destroy a ground target at 8 Km while Hydra-70 is an unguided rocket system which can be aimed & controlled by the targeting system of Apache & can fire a variety of rockets to a maximum range of 10.5Kms.
These capabilities make Apache not only a formidable attack helicopter in the world but also creates a chill in the spines of the enemy. The most important factor to be noticed here is that till date over 2000 such helicopters have been made & delivered to different countries in the world, only one had been the victim of enemy fire in the gulf war. This too because this was a very initial type & was not upgraded. Apache AH64E is the latest of all & will give a phenomenal edge to India over its adversaries especially on our western front.