WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has begun to accept new AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from Boeing after halting deliveries due to a safety concern, according to Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd, the service’s program executive officer for aviation.
The Army was able to resume accepting Apaches into the fleet on Aug. 31, Todd told Defense News in a Sept. 10 statement.
Defense News broke the news in April that the Army stopped accepting AH-64Es into its fleet the month prior because it was not confident in the durability of the helicopter’s strap pack nut, a “critical safety” item. The strap pack nut holds very large bolts that subsequently hold the rotor blades on the helicopter.
The Army was unhappy with the performance of the nuts in severe coastal environments and saw corrosion due to climate and stress during routine safety inspections of the fleet.
The service told Boeing it wouldn’t take any more AH-64Es off the production line until the company redesigned a new strap pack nut that would be more durable in tough environments.
In June, Boeing started the Army-directed effort to begin retrofitting Apaches with a redesigned strap pack at no cost to the U.S. government or Foreign Military Sales customers, Todd told Defense News in a Sept. 10 statement.
The strap pack nut will be replaced on all Apaches in the fleet to include the earlier variant, the AH-64D, which is still operational in many foreign fleets around the world.
The new strap pack nut is “a fully qualified and airworthy solution,” Todd said.
The Army anticipates the retrofit of the entire fleet of U.S. government and FMS aircraft will be completed by December 2019, he added.
The first units to receive new parts will be those that fly regularly in severe, coastal environments. Todd estimated that at roughly six units in the Army. There are 653 AH-64s currently fielded in the U.S. Army.
Boeing builds an average of six AH-64Es per month in its Mesa, Arizona, facility.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.