The Boeing Co. delivered the 502nd Apache Longbow attack helicopter to the U.S. Army on Wednesday, the first under a contract extension that will keep the company’s Mesa assembly line running for three more years.
The machine was the first Apache Longbow aircraft delivered to the Army since July 2006, when the company delivered the last of 501 Longbows under the Army’s original contracts.
In January, the Army agreed to a new $1.15 billion order, called the extended Block II contract, for remanufacturing 96 additional Apache Longbow helicopters to keep the company’s assembly line running and maintaining employment at the plant until a next-generation version of the aircraft is ready for production beginning in 2011.
The company also is making 30 Apache Longbows for the United Arab Emirates.
“We did have a break (after July 2005), but now we have the continuing production line going for a number of years in the future,” said Al Winn, vice president of Boeing’s Apache program. The firm employs about 4,500 at the facility at 5000 E. McDowell Road, most working on the Apache.
The company is remanufacturing AH-64 Apache helicopters originally delivered to the Army in the 1980s and ’90s, upgrading them with advanced radars and other improvements to redesignate them as AH-64D Apache Longbows. The combat helicopters, which carry missiles and rockets in addition to a rapid-fire machine gun, have seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Col. Derek Paquette, the Army’s Apache program manager, said the gunship is “the world’s most advanced and feared helicopter.”
David Almond, Boeing’s Block II program manager, said the company is talking with the Army about producing an additional 24 Apache Longbows under the Block II program after the current lot of 96 is completed.