Members of the Livery were privileged to visit Middle Wallop, home of the Army Air Corps, in August and to lay their hands on an Apache attack helicopter. Our host, Major Darren Clements, Officer Commanding Army Flying Standards, explained the history and capabilities of the aircraft which has served the military well in Afghanistan and other areas of conflict since 2001.
The foreboding design of the helicopter leaves one in no doubt that this is a mean machine capable of raining down serious firepower in combat situations. It can operate in all weathers, day or night and carries a mix of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles, and a 30mm chain gun bearing our very own proof mark. With the aid of the distinctive Longbow radar located above the rotor blades, it can detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds up to a range of 5 miles. The crew sit in tandem, with the pilot located behind and above the copilot/gunner. Both crew members are capable of flying the aircraft and performing methods of weapon engagements independently. They are equipped with an Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System which enable them to link the helicopter’s gun to their helmet, making the gun track head movements so as to point where they look.
The helicopter is also equipped with a state of the art fully integrated set of countermeasures. The airframe includes some 2,500 lb of protection and has a self sealing fuel system to protect against bullets and rockets. The crew compartment has shielding between the cockpits, such that at least one crew member can survive hits. The compartment and the rotor blades are designed to sustain a hit from a 23mm round.
After viewing one of the fleet at close quarters, the more agile among us tried the cockpit for size. We then took our places in the lecture theatre, where Major Clements demonstrated the helicopter’s operational capabilities with the aid of some declassified video. Some of the footage was not for the fainthearted. Before departing, we enjoyed a brunch in the canteen and thanked our host for giving us such an interesting and memorable tour.