The U.S. Army Battle-Tested AH-64E Apache Guardian Has America’s Enemies Running For The Hills
The Apache stands amongst a number of weapon systems, such as the M1 Abrams tank and the F-15E Strike Eagle, that entered service in the 1980s and proved their mettle in the 1991 Gulf War. Apaches fired the first shots of that conflict, taking out Iraqi low-band radars with Hellfire missiles, clearing the way for the initial strikes by F-117 stealth fighters. A total of 277 Apaches were deployed in the conflict, claiming the destruction of 278 Iraqi tanks as well as numerous other targets, a high “rate of return” by the standards of most weapons systems. Only one Apache was lost in combat.
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Now the U.S. Army will spend billions of dollars over the next decade to upgrade its iconic Apache helicopters to the latest—and most likely, last—variant, the AH-64E “Guardian.” Attack helicopters are responsive and have a relatively precise means of unleashing heavy firepower where it’s needed most, but unlike main battle tanks or jet fighters, even an armored helicopter is vulnerable to low-tech machine guns, anti-aircraft cannons and even rocket-propelled grenades; let alone surface-to-air missiles.
In later conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64s continued to prove their deadly effectiveness, but couldn’t avoid losses from ground fire, including during an infamous raid against the Iraqi Medina Division that a strike group of 31 Apaches badly shot up by heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons. This new technology promises to do something about that. Time to wait and see.