Warplanes: Poland Gets Its Gunships


September 4, 2023: After waiting nearly a year for a response from the United States, Poland was finally told that the United States would supply it with 96 of the latest version of the AH-64E helicopter gunship. Each one will cost 125 million dollars, although that also includes support equipment, some training and an initial supply of spare parts. Poland ordered the AH-64s as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022l. Poland ordered a lot of other modern weapons to handle the potential Russian threat to Poland.

In 2011 the U.S. Army began receiving the first of 51 Block III models of the AH-64D Apache helicopter gunship. The Army soon decided to rename the new model the AH-64E. This was the latest version of the AH-64 which had its first flight in 2008. It was decided that the Block III improvements were so numerous and dramatic that it made more sense to go to a simpler and more descriptive AH-64E designation.

The first model, the AH-64A, entered service in 1986. The last AH-64A 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. 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, so named because of the radar mast, making it possible to see ground targets and flying obstacles in all weather, began appearing in 1997. By 2006, over 500 American AH-64As had been upgraded to AH-64Ds.

By 2010 634 army AH-64s were upgraded to the new AH-64E standard. The first AH-64Es entered service in 2011 and were heavily used to reveal any design or manufacturing flaws. These were fixed before mass production and conversion begins.

AH-64Es have more powerful and fuel efficient engines, as well as much improved electronics. AH-64Es will also have Internet-like capabilities enabling these gunships to quickly exchange images, video, and so on with other aircraft and ground troops. AH-64Es will be able to control several UAVs and launch missiles at targets spotted by these UAVs. The AH-64E III radar will have longer range and onboard computers will be much more powerful. The electronics will be easier to upgrade and maintain. The combination of improved fire control and Internet capabilities is expected to greatly increase the capabilities of the AH-64.

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 exported to a growing number of allies, who also qualify for future upgrades. About 2,500 have entered service since the first one appeared in 1986. The U.S. sought to develop a replacement for the AH-64 but found that the constant upgrades to the AH-64 made that difficult and certainly not cost-effective given the high cost and long time required to design and get a new helicopter gunship into production. As a result, the AH-64 will remain the primary American helicopter gunships until 2060 if not longer.


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