Sunday, August 23, 2009

Camp Humphreys battalion swaps Apaches for upgraded models

The Army’s only Apache attack helicopter unit in South Korea will soon trade in its entire fleet for a new and more lethal model. The 4th Battalion (Attack), 2nd Aviation Regiment at Camp Humphreys will make the swap a few aircraft at a time, starting in September.The battalion’s 24 AH-64D Apache Longbows are the Block 1, Version 6 variant. They’ll be exchanged for the newest model — the Block 2, Version 11.

“It’s a one-for-one exchange,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Craig D. Yerdon, the battalion’s standardization instructor pilot. “By the end of the year, all of our aircraft will be traded in.” Boeing produces the Apache, a two-seater attack helicopter, at a factory in Mesa, Ariz., Yerdon said. The new Apaches will be airlifted from Fort Hood, Texas, to Osan Air Base aboard Air Force C-17 Globemaster transports, he said. A C-17 can carry three Apaches.

Six will be transported to Osan each month; once they’re unloaded, six older Apaches will be loaded and carried to the U.S. The new helos will be reassembled, inspected and then flown to Humphreys. Yerdon said battalion pilots welcome the newest Apache model, which has several key improvements. One is the improved cockpit map display that will allow pilots to use digital map images to see terrain and other topographical features.

The Block 1s provide only “a stick map depiction” of their planned route, on a blank background. To see what the surrounding terrain looks like at a given spot, pilots have to leaf through a thick book of hard-copy maps.“So it drastically increases pilot situational awareness, reduces our workload … so he’s not scrambling … through that map book” in the cockpit, Yerdon said.

Another improvement is the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight, or M-TADS, a canister-like device mounted at the Apache’s front. It contains a forward looking infrared — or FLIR — with improved resolution and acuity to allow pilots to pick up targets more clearly at longer distances on their display screens. The new FLIR in the M-TADS can also help pilots see terrain features and other objects better and thus fly more safely at night, Yerdon said.“We will increase both safety — flying, because we can identify hazards and obstacles better — but will also increase lethality because we can look further and see the enemy further away than we can currently,” Yerdon said.

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