The US Army's 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB) has fielded the first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter during a ceremony at Gray Army Airfield within Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, US.
Eight out of 24 helicopters were received by the battalion, since January 2013, and all are scheduled to be operational by the end of April this year.
Known as Guardian, the new heavily-armed helicopter features more powerful, fuel-efficient T700-GE-701D engines, enhanced rotor blade technology, as well as advanced electronics, and is designed to replace the army's existing AH-64D Longbow model helicopters.
Other features include improved drive system and sensor enhancements, improved handling and performance, as well as the ability to hover at 6,000ft with a full mission payload, providing pilots with more control during high-altitude operations.
Commenting on the helicopter, 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion commander lieutenant colonel Geoffrey Crawford said it would increase the battalion's lethality and survivability, while also improving its ability to support ground forces.
"The increased power will now allow us to stay on the objective longer and with more ammunition," Crawford added.
With a combat speed of around 189mph, the helicopter, which was formerly known as AH-64D Block III, can turn faster and tighter in challenging environments, and also provide pilots with options to remotely operate nearby unmanned aerial vehicles/systems.
In addition, 1-229th ARB maintenance test pilot chief warrant officer 3 Richard Crabtree said: "They can view UAV camera feeds, adjust their flight path and launch missiles at targets spotted by the UAV."
The battalion flight crews are scheduled to conduct familiarisation training using the actual aircraft and AH-64E flight simulators at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in addition to training in preparation for upcoming rotations to the Army's National Training Center (NTC) later this year.
Image: An AH-64 Apache helicopter participating in a training exercise at Yakima Training Center in Washington, US. Photo: courtesy of captain Jesse Paulsboe.