The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is upgrading eight of its 28 AH-64D Apache helicopter gunships to the latest E standard. The UAE will also receive nine newly built AH-64Es. Work on the upgrade will begin in early 2019. In 2017 the UAE sought to get 37 AH-64Es but that plan has been revised. The current order is part of that. The UAE has been using its AH-64s a lot in Yemen since 2015 and has lost two. Many others are in need of refurbishment.
The UAE first began acquiring AH-64s in the early 1990s. After 2001 UAE undertook several AH-64 upgrade programs. At first, this was to upgrade existing AH-64As to the D standard as well as buying 30 new AH-64Ds in 2010. There were delays in the AH-64 expansion program but with the current order that is moving forward with older AH-64s being remanufactured to not only extend their service life but also upgrade to the E standard. The goal is to expand and upgrade the AH-64 fleet to 60 AH-64Es by the early 2020s. Most of the UAE AH-64s are in the 10th Army Aviation Brigade (which is a joint command with the air force) while some others are assigned to the Special Operations Command.
The AH-64E made its first flight in 2008 and the U.S. Army received its first ones in 2011. The AH-64E showed up in Afghanistan during early 2014 for field testing. There the 24 AH-64Es with an aviation battalion performed as expected. The E model benefits from three decades of operational experience. The AH-64 entered service in 1986 and the last of these AH-64As was taken out of service in 2012 for upgrade to the AH-64D standard. The AH-64B was an upgrade proposed for the early 1990s but was canceled, as was a similar “C” model upgrade, because of Cold War budget cuts. Some of these canceled improvements were in great demand. Thus the “B” and “C” model upgrades were incorporated in the AH-64D Block I (1997). The AH-64D Longbow (because of the radar mast, making it possible to see ground targets and flying obstacles in all weather) models began appearing in 2002. By the end of the decade, 634 army AH-64Ds will be upgraded to the new AH-64E standard.
AH-64Es have more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, as well as much improved electronics. AH-64Es also have Internet-like capabilities enabling these gunships to quickly exchange images, video, and so on with other aircraft and ground troops. Each AH-64E can also control several UAVs and launch missiles at targets spotted by these UAVs. The AH-64E radar has longer range and onboard computers are much more powerful than earlier ones. The electronics are easier to upgrade and maintain. The combination of improved fire control and Internet capabilities greatly increases the combat effectiveness of the AH-64E.
The 10 ton AH-64E carries a pilot and a weapons officer, as well as up to 16 Hellfire missiles (plus the 30mm automatic cannon). Sorties average three hours. The AH-64 can operate at night and has a top speed of 260 kilometers an hour.
In addition to the U.S. Army, the AH-64E is in service with many foreign nations. Neighboring Saudi Arabia ordered 70. Israel, Kuwait and Egypt also bought in. Many of these are being upgraded to the “E” standard. There are about 1,100 AH-64s (mostly American) in service and most are being upgraded to the E standard.