WASHINGTON — For nearly two years the Army’s fleet of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters have experienced an uptick in the number of electrical power generator failures causing pilots to experience “potentially hazardous” flight conditions including breathing and visibility problems, the Army told Breaking Defense.
When the Pentagon released a slew of Selected Acquisition Reports last week on major acquisition programs, it included one on the Army’s AH-64E Apache fleet dated December 2022 that included details about a problem that remains unresolved.
“Over the last year, the Apache has experienced an increase in the instance of electrical power generator failures resulting in potentially hazardous flight conditions and precautionary landings,” the report said. “As a result, the [program manager] has instituted a multi-faceted approach to reduce both the instance and severity of generator failures.”
A Program Executive Office Aviation spokesman explained in a Tuesday email that when the generator fails, the Apache cockpit can fill with smoke causing “breathing and visibility issues.”
However, those electric issues have not resulted in a crash or prompted enough concern for service leaders to ground the fleet, he added.
“A long-term solution is under investigation,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “Engineering effort will commence once the program is funded.”
In the meantime, the Army has taken several “interim actions” to address the generator failures including retrofitting the helo fleet with a modification that shuts down a compromised generator as soon as a fault is detected, the spokesman wrote.
Boeing, the Apache prime contractor, did not immediately respond to Breaking Defense’s questions about the generator failure. Regardless of the existing problem, the US government is continuing to approve AH-64E sales abroad, including a recent one with Poland for 96 aircraft.
The Army first fielded the AH-64E in 2012, and as of March, has an Army Acquisition Objective (AAO) for 812 aircraft — a mix of the AH-64E Apache remanufacture and new build lines. While the line is more than a decade old, improvements have been made along the way, and the service is eying a path ahead for integrating in General Electric’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) once it is ready.
In 2018, the service temporarily stopped accepting AH-64 E deliveries from Boeing due to a loss in confidence in a critical safety item, a strap pack nut, which is essentially large bolts holding the rotor blades to the helicopter. It later retrofitted “mega-nuts” on existing helicopters.