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US Army building first next-gen Block III Apache helicopter

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Block III Apache helicopter

ARLINGTON (BNS): Construction on the first fuselage of the next-generation AH-64 Block III Apache helicopter has begun by US Army.

The new attack helicopter will be built with a stronger engine, improved avionics, better computer networking capability and increased maneuverability when compared with current models, service officials said.

“The first Block III aircraft is being built at a Boeing facility in Mesa, Arizona, will roll off the production line this fall,” Lt. Col. Dan Bailey, product manager for the programme said.

The first two aircraft will be used for developmental purposes, and the next five after that will be used to train the first unit equipped, he said.

The Apache Block III aircraft will begin to be fielded with units by the end of 2012, Bailey said.

Overall, the Army plans to acquire 690 Block III Apaches between now and 2026 at a production rate of roughly two battalions per year, beginning in FY 2013. Of this amount, 643 will be re-manufactured aircraft and 56 will be "new builds," Bailey explained.

As part of its preparation of the Block III Apache, the programme completed a "logistics demonstration" in March designed to show that the aircraft will be maintainable once fielded. The demonstration checked on the avionics, wiring, gear boxes, cockpit seat and electronics, among other things.

The Block III Apache features a 701D engine, composite rotor blades, improved networking and communications avionics, and an Improved Drive System of the 21st Century -- known as IDS-21 -- Face Gear Transmission.

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