November 17, 2010:
The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is buying 60 U.S. AH-64 Apache Block III helicopter gunships. Neighboring Saudi Arabia recently ordered 70 of the same model, as well as upgrades for its existing twelve AH-64s, to the Block III standard. Since Saudi Arabia has a population six times that of the UAE, that's quite an investment in gunships by the UAE. The UAE has also spent billions on 80 high end F-16s and many anti-aircraft and anti-missile missile systems. The UAE, while occupies most of the western coast of the Persian Gulf, is more exposed to Iranian aggression than Saudi Arabia. Both countries see Iran as a major threat and have, in the last few years, received or have on order over $100 billion worth of armaments. The Iranians have lots of Cold War era weapons, but are more effective fighters. The Arabs on the other side of the Gulf are trying to use weapons quality, and close ties with the United States, to overcome the Iranian advantage.
The newest version of the AH-64 is the Block III. This version had its first flight two years ago. The U.S. Army will be upgrading all of its 634 AH-64s to the new Block III standard, a process that won't be completed until 2020. The first Block IIIs will enter service next year.
Block III has a lot of improvements. One of the notable ones is a more powerful and fuel efficient engine, as well as much improved electronics. Block III will also have Internet like capabilities with other aircraft and ground troops. Block III will be able to control several UAVs, and launch missiles at targets spotted by its UAVs. The Block 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 7.5 ton AH-64D 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.