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The AH-64 Apache was originally developed by Hughes Helicopters for the US Army as an anti-tank attack helicopter. The original AH-64A entered US Army service in 1986 and featured advanced targeting systems including sensors that were slaved to gunners/pilots line of sight via their helmets, as was the helicopters 30mm cannon. The Apaches main weapon is the laser guided AGM-114 Hellfire missile which is designed to defeat main battle tanks and came to the forefront during the Gulf War where AH-64As were the first coalition aircraft to enter Iraq to attack early warning radar sites. Further developments of the AH-64 resulted in the new-build AH-64D Apache Longbow which included the AN/APG-78 mast mounted Longbow Radar which allowed the Apache to track up to 128 target sand engage the 16 highest threats at once from behind cover using a new radar guided version of the Hellfire. The most recent version is the AH-64E Guardian, renamed from the AH-64D Block III. The Guardian uses more powerful engines and has the ability to directly control drones, the radar has also seen a significant upgrade and the fuselage/rotors are now capable of being used aboard ships.
In 1995, the United Kingdom selected the AH-64D Apache Longbow as the Army's new attack helicopter. The Apache was to be licence-built by Westland and would ultimately be known as the AgustaWestland Apache AH1. The British Apache differs from US Apaches by utilising more powerful Rolls-Royce RTM322 engines and UK specific avionics. British Apaches were also capable of being deployed aboard naval vessels, a capability which was used to operate over Libya in 2011 from HMS Ocean. The Apache AH1 saw substantial service in Afghanistan where Prince Harry also operated the type as a gunner In 2015 the UK confirmed that it would remanufacture 50 of its Apaches to AH-64E standard including new engines, to be known as the Apache AH2.
Whilst the Army own and operate the entire UK Apache fleet, they are all under the command of Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). The JHC combines all the battlefield helicopters of the Army Air Corps, Royal Navy and RAF under a single military command structure centralised around the Army. The JHC will be sending an Apache AH2 to appear in this year's Air Tattoo. This will be the first appearance by the new AH-64E Apache Guardian at the Royal International Air Tattoo. Photo Credit: Crown Copyright