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Apache Helicopters in India: Function and its Significance

As we know that 8 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters that are US made were inducted into the IAF on 3 September, 2019. The ceremony took place at Pathankot Air Force Station and the Chief Guest was Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa. Let us read more about Apache helicopters, their function and significance.
Sep 3, 2019 15:15 IST
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Apache Helicopters in India
Apache Helicopters in India

The world's most advanced multi-role combat helicopter is Apache AH-64E. It is used by the U.S. Army and several international defense forces. In January 1984, the first AH-64A was delivered to the U.S. Army and as of July 2016 the U.S. Army Apache fleet has accumulated more than 4.2 million flight hours since it was delivered to U.S.

The helicopter is designed in such a way that it can survive heavy attack and inflict massive damage and so, act as a flying tank. It can target in day or night, and also in terrible weather. No doubt, it is terrifying machine to ground forces.

Do you know about Apache's flight systems, weapon systems, sensor systems and armour systems? Let us study about it.

What does Apache consists of?

Apache is same like other helicopter. It consists of two rotors that spin several blades. Blades are tilted air foil, just like a wing of an aeroplane. Each blade generates lift when speeds through the air.

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The rotor is attached to the top of the helicopter and spins four 20-foot that is around 6-meter blades. By adjusting the swash plate mechanism, the pilot manoeuvres the helicopter. The work of the swash plate is to change the pitch of each blade to increase the lift. In this way by adjusting the pitch equally for all blades will help in lifting the helicopter straight up and down. Pitch is important because by changing the pitch, blades make their own way around the rotation cycle and creates uneven lift which causes the helicopter to tilt and fly in a particular direction.

What is the function of Rotors and Blades in Apache?

Rotor

The work of rotor is to spin which exerts a rotation force on the entire helicopter. As a result they push the tail boom in the opposite direction. The pilot, by changing the pitch of the rear blades can change the direction of helicopter or keep it from turning at all. Apache consists of double tail rotors each having two blades.

Let us tell you that the newest Apache sports twin has General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft engines which boast about 1,700 horsepower each. Each engine turns a drive shaft which is connected to a simple gear box. The function of gear box is to shift the angle of rotation of about 90 degrees and passes the power on to the transmission. It further transmits the power to the main rotor assembly and a long shaft leading to the tail rotor. Therefore, the rotor provides much greater agility as compared to other helicopter.

Blades

Blades consist of five stainless steel arms known as spars and are surrounded by a fibreglass skeleton. The edge of each blade is covered with a sturdy graphite composite material and the edge which is leading is made up of titanium. Because titanium is a strong metal that can withstand brushes with trees and other sort of minor obstacles which help in flying. So, it helps in zipping just above the contours of the ground. In this way Apache fly to sneak up on the targets and to avoid attack. The rear tail helps to stabilise the helicopter during nap of the earth flight and also at the time of hovering.

How Apache Helicopter work?

The main function of the Apache is to take out heavily ground targets like tanks and bunkers and for this need of heavy fire power is must and that too from the helicopter. So, the targeting system should be strong to perform such kind of work. The primary weapon of the Apache that is the Hellfire missile meets these demands. Do you know that each missile is a miniature aircraft having its own guidance computer, steering control and propulsion system. The payload is copper lined charge warhead which is highly explosive and enough powerful to burn the heaviest tank armour.

What is Black Box? How does it Work?

In fact Apache has missiles with four fire rails attached to pylons mounted to its wings. On each wing there are two pylons and each pylons support four missiles. Therefore, we can say that Apache can carry 16 missiles at a time. Before launching, each missile gets instructions from the helicopter's computer. When computer transmits the fire signal, the missile sets off the propellant. When the burning propellant generates about 500 pounds of force, the missile breaks free of the rail. With the speed of the missile, the force of acceleration triggers the arming mechanism. As missile makes contact with the target, the sensor starts working and sets off the warhead.

The laser guidance system is used by the Hellfire to hit its target. The Apache gunner system further target it with the laser beam and then in a particular coded pattern the laser pulses on and off.

Here, it is important to understand that before giving the fire signal, the computer in the Apache tells the missile's control system about the specific pulse pattern of the laser. On the nose of the missile there is a laser seeker which helps in detecting the laser light reflecting off the target?

The guidance system calculates in which way the missile need to move. No doubt the laser Hellfire system is highly effective but it has some drawbacks also like cloud cover or obstacles block the laser beam and so it will never able to make the target, if missile passes through the cloud, it can lose the sight of the target and the helicopter has to put out in the open for attack.

In Apache Longbow helicopters, the Hellfire II is used to correct the drawbacks of earlier ones. Now, instead of laser seeker system the missile has radar seeker. The radar of the helicopter locates the target and the missile work accordingly. As we know that the radio waves are not obstructed by clouds or obstacles, the missile will be able to find the target.

Let us see about the rockets of Apache

Now Apache fly with two Hydra rocket launchers in place of two Hellfire missile sets. Each rocket launcher carries 19 folding-fin 2.75-inch aerial rockets which are secured in launching tubes. To fire the rockets, the launcher triggers igniters at the rear end of the tube. The gunner of the Apache can fire one rocket at a time or can launch them in groups. With several warhead designs the rickets work. The warheads deliver several submunitions, small bombs that separate from the rocket in the air and fall on targets below.

Under the nose of the helicopter there is a cannon attached to a turret through which the gunner engages close range targets with an M230 30mm automatic cannon. The gunners do this with the help of a computer system placed in the cockpit. In fact the computer controls hydraulics that swings the turret from side to side and up and down.

The automatic cannon is a chain gun which is powered by an electric motor. The motor rotates the chain, which slides the bolt assembly back and forth to load, fire, extract and eject cartridges. This is different from an ordinary machine gun.

The cartridges travel from a magazine above the gun and it holds maximum of 1,200 rounds and the gun can fire 600 to 650 rounds a minute. The cannon is designed in such a way that it fires high-explosive rounds to pierce light armour.

So, we can say that Apache helicopter is a new development in the history of war and is the most lethal helicopter ever created.

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