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Fuselage length: 49 feet 5 inches
Rotor diameter: 48 feet
Height: 12.7 feet
Empty: 11,387 pounds
Loaded: 17,650 pounds
Maximum takeoff: 23,000 pounds
Engines: Two General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshafts with 1,890 shaft horsepower each
Armament: One 30 mm M230 chain gun; up to nineteen 70 mm Hydra, CRV or APKWS air-to-ground rockets; AGM-114 Hellfire or AIM-92 Stinger missiles
Avionics: Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman AN/AP-78 Longbow fire-control radar
Never exceed: 227 mph
Maximum: 182 mph
Cruise: 165 mph
Combat radius: 300 miles

The success of armed Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters in Vietnam led the U.S. Army in 1966 to develop the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne, a large rotary-wing weapon system intended to meet the threat of Soviet armor in Europe. In 1972 the Army canceled the Cheyenne program in favor of a machine that was smaller, more agile and with greater crew survivability. That led to protracted development by Hughes—later absorbed by McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing—that finally bore fruit when the prototype YAH-64A took to the air on Sept. 30, 1975. In 1981 the Army dubbed its new advanced attack helicopter the Apache, and Hughes rolled out the first production AH-64A on Sept. 30, 1983.

While the Apache proved an agile, potent weapon during its 1989 combat debut in Panama and in the 1990–91 Gulf War, operational limitations came to light, leading to a series of improvements that included a global positioning system (GPS), new rotor blades and radios, and improved navigation systems on the AH-64B, followed by further upgrades in the AH-64C. The AH-64D featured new avionics and, most significant, Longbow radar mounted atop the main rotor to provide millimeter-wave guidance for “fire and forget” AGM-114L Hellfire missiles, all 16 of which the gunner could fire while the pilot kept the helicopter concealed behind terrain features. Boeing has since packed further electronic refinements into the Apache D’s expanded cheek fairings.

After participating in peacekeeping operations, the AH-64D came into its own during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. There the aircraft provided the 101st Airborne Division with close support conventional aircraft could not, while surviving tremendous punishment from gunfire and SA-7s to bring their crews home. Apaches have since proven themselves in Iraq and with a number of foreign users, the most active of which has been Israel. MH