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Is the Boeing AH-64 Apache The Ultimate Weapon?| The Ultimates: Combat Helicopters | Spark

Is the Boeing AH-64 Apache The Ultimate Weapon?| The Ultimates: Combat Helicopters | Spark
modern warfare is dominated by technology never more so than with the

combat

helicopter today's machines are lethal agile and survivable put that together with new digital technology and you have the

ultimate

weapon

that will revolutionize how battles are formed after the second world war a new tool became available to commanders on the battlefield the helicopter it was now possible to move troops and their equipment rapidly across the

combat

zone

helicopters

didn't need airfields because they could take off and land from a space the size of a tennis court and they could operate over any terrain natural barriers like rivers jungles and deserts were no obstacle to these machines the americans used

helicopters

in the korean war to evacuate wounded troops to field hospitals helicopters that were made famous in the television series mash and because of the short journey times many lives were saved that otherwise would have been lost but it was during the vietnam war that the helicopter really made its mark instead of marching to the battlefront troops were flown in along with their equipment and ammunition at first they were simply troop carriers but soon they became a lethal attack

weapon

not only could they protect the troops and other helicopters they could also unleash deadly force against the enemy on the ground helicopters had changed battle tactics forever today the helicopter is moving to a new era that of the digital battlefields using digital technology commanders will be able to know the exact position of their troops aircraft and weapons as well as the enemy's position at any given moment in time they will also be able to send this information instantly to their troops on the ground and in the sky using one gigantic military internet this digital battlefield is seen as the most important advance in warfare since the helicopter itself leading the charge into the digital age is the deadliest helicopter ever built the

apache

longbow it is the supreme attack helicopter and the first to be wired for the digital battlefields using sophisticated radar it can detect and attack multiple targets using its 30 millimeter cannon rockets and precision guided hellfire missiles it is the number one killing machine and the number one flying machine for pilots this is the most

ultimate

machine to fly this is like flying a ferrari the

apache

aircraft was designed to be a heavy attack platform for the army so it provides not only a heavy attack type of capability but it provides close air support as well as armed escort for other aircraft the apache is designed for combat both during the day and at night and has seen action in panama somalia bosnia and both gulf wars its lethal record in combat is matched by its name army aircraft are typically named after indian tribes within the united states and the the apache aircraft was named after the apache tribe which were fierce warriors uh during the early times of of the united states so it just was fitting to name this aircraft after the apache tribe because we're looking to make a very fierce fighting weapons platform one reason the apache longbow is so effective as an attack helicopter is that different detection and information processing technologies have been integrated into a single aircraft on the nose of the aircraft are sensors that identify and track targets day and night using high resolution television infrared and lasers the information from the sensors is displayed in the pilot's eyepiece on the helmet which is linked to the gun so wherever the pilot looks the gun points as well on top of the apache is the longbow radar pod which is used to locate and track targets using a technique called unmasking the helicopter hides behind cover then appears above the tree line to allow the radar to detect the enemy before dropping out of sight again what longbow does on the apache aircraft is it's that fire control radar it's that ability to in a matter of seconds to detect classify and prioritize targets and then download that data to be displayed in front of the pilot as well as downloading that information into the rf missile the apache longbow is the first in-service helicopter upgraded for the digital battlefield missions are planned on computers and then transferred into the aircraft in this way the pilots can load all the data and navigation information for the mission instantly and without error there's no way to over emphasize what digitization will mean to the battlefield because in the past you typically saw the enemy you engaged the enemy now you're able to quickly determine where the enemy is where the friendlies are and in a matter of seconds engage them with any weapon system on the battlefield because the longbow is digital many of its systems can easily be replicated in a simulator this means that pilots can be trained on a device that simulates real missions without ever putting aircraft or pilots at risk at fort rucker alabama the us army is training longbow apache helicopter pilots on four state-of-the-art simulators a bit like giant video games they digitally replicate the exact flight profile and handling of the helicopter it is in fact a uh one huge video game it's also a very expensive video game and it's very real also obviously what we do is very real so it's a huge benefit for us to have this trainer so that we can train them up and have them ready to fight the new trainees have the ability to come in here they learn how to start the aircraft they learn to familiarize themselves with the cockpits then can fly the aircraft get a little experience uh actually flying the machine and can actually work with their stick buddy on real missions pilots must not only look out for the enemy but also other apaches this system can even link the simulators together there's an old joke about simulators where you have to watch out for the other simulators well in here it's real these simulators can be linked up together and you can actually look out left and right at the other simulated aircraft well the longboat crew trainer allows us to simulate the digital battlefield and here we can simulate almost everything so it's essential to the future the simulator can recreate most battlefield scenarios but when pilots are out on a real mission it's real bullets being fired at them the apache longbow helicopter's role is to engage the enemy so it has to be able to survive hostile fire it's designed with a slender profile making it difficult to hit when attacked head-on and is heavily armored around the cockpit this right here is an armored panel that will come out and will protect us on both on our sides in between the cockpit we have a blast shield that will prevent any kind of round if a round does get inside one of the cockpits it will not penetrate through to the other cockpit to take both pilots out the flight controls and computer systems have backups in case they are disabled by enemy fire in addition the rotor blades and fuel tanks can take hits without failing and even the gearbox can run dry of oil for 30 minutes to give added survivability the apache longbow is principally a killing machine and it requires special qualities to become its pilot what's the aggressive nature of an attack pilot the attack pilot is always out there looking for a fight and he's willing to get into the scrap and he's and he's willing to put his neck on the line in order to protect the soldiers on the ground the attack pilot is your more aggressive type a personality he's going to go out there and his job is to want to get into the fight he's going to have the courage to want to stay in the fight and to mission first mission accomplishment we're out there to protect the ground guys we're out there to protect other helicopters that we may be escorting and we're very very mission oriented this is the greatest job that you can possibly have i wouldn't trade it for the world the thing that links all pilots everywhere is their shared passion for flying regardless of the aircraft or its role nolan beck has been flying for 18 years and is a test pilot on one of the most successful military helicopters ever made the black hawk i love to fly any aircraft but what i like most about the blackhawk is its versatility i can be moving troops one day across enemy lines moving cargo one day and moving external loads the next day it's very easily changeable it's not the same mission every day the blackhawk flies 50 of the army's flying hours fifteen hundred and fifty of them are still buying them to go to sixteen hundred and eighty it performs every major aviation mission that we have it can be fully armed and is fully armed in several configurations the black hawk has been in every war the united states has fought since the 80s it's a utility helicopter carrying out virtually every job on the battlefield troop and equipment carrying medical evacuation search and rescue even command and control missions the history of the blackhawk is such that it was named for a chief blackhawk he was a chief of the sauk tribe uh in the uh in the rock island illinois area and uh the chief sided with the british in the war of 1812. and uh subsequent to that war he became uh uh very close to some of our leaders in particular in 1833 president andrew jackson uh became very impressed with his candor courage and convictions and we became a great national icon and subsequently we named the aircraft the black hawk after the chief the blackhawk is a fairly powerful aircraft it can lift a lot of troops and a lot of equipment and gets there quickly and it handles quite nicely it's very responsive the black hawk like all combat helicopters flies low when possible to avoid being detected and attacked one of the other great advantages of flying a helicopter is being able to fly a tree top level this reduces your exposure time to enemy forces which enhances your survivability rate on the other side of that is that when you're flying close to the trees anything that sticks up out of the trees could pose a hazard to your aircraft so you have to constantly scan outside the aircraft and make sure you don't run into obstructions i've flown high performance jets and helicopters and flying a helicopter at treetop level i think is a lot more exciting than flying a jet in altitude but for all its excellence the black hawk is not equipped for the coming digital age we seek overmatch of the enemy in so many ways lethality survivability uh sustainability transportability i mean we have so many ways that we are we want to be far superior to our enemy one of which is information or digitization information is crucial to success on the battlefield digitization provides the commanders and pilots with situational awareness which is the ability to know at any given moment exactly where the enemy is as well as friendly forces essential if one is to hit the enemy and not want allies you cannot overstate the significance of that that's very very profound colonel lake sees it rather like a one-sided chess game i guess there is an analogy and i've heard it a long time ago when digitization was at its very very inception and these concepts were being briefed to the leadership of the army at that time and they likened it to a chess game where there was a two-way mirror and uh a person on one side was able to see what both teams were doing and the other person could see only what he was doing in the mirror and um and of course it's really gets worse than that because that person would likely not even be able to know what he was doing but uh that's probably a great analogy you can see everything they can only see what they're doing at best despite its superb combat record if the black hawks to become part of the future digital army it will need a digital upgrade for about half the price of a new aircraft uh we can remanufacture the uh-60a models give them 20 more 20 years additional service life full glass cockpit getting rid of analog steam gauges removing the obsolescence problem from the avionics we refurbish the aircraft treated for corrosion and stresses and those sorts of things put on more powerful engines wide cord blades it becomes more maneuverable it's going to fit in perfectly with the objective force and it'll give it the army the utility helicopter for the next 20 to 30 years without having to go out and do a new start for now the black hook has an interim upgrade with digital screens in the medical evacuation model this is the hh60l the latest version of the medevac blackhawk helicopter it has a medevac interior with litters in the back and a forward-looking infrared mounted on the nose if you look up front the primary difference on the cockpit is a step towards digitization to get away from the old steam gauges we have a flight management system allows the pilot centralized control of all communications and navigation functions and a multi-function liquid crystal display which displays clear imagery and also display flight plan and communication and navigation information keeping successful designs going is united states army policy one machine that has made the grade from analog to digital is blackhawk's big brother the chin hook 50 feet long and weighing a mighty 32 000 pounds the twin roted chinook has been in service since the vietnam war in 1972 but despite its age it's been upgraded for the digital battlefield tandem rotors a loading ramp in the tail and the ability to carry heavy loads slung underneath makes the chinook the most versatile military helicopter ever created this one is is named for a chinook tribe but also this one puts out a lot of wind and there's a chinook wind so this is almost like a flying tornado with the amount of downwash that this aircraft puts out most helicopters like the apache and blackhawk use a main rotor for lift and have a smaller tail rotor that prevents the fuselage from spinning around however this uses a significant amount of engine power that could have been used for lift on a tandem rotor helicopter like the chinook the two main rotors rotate in opposite directions cancelling out any tendency for the fuselage to want to spin and so all the available power from the twin engines goes to both rotors solely for lift we talk about the chinook being a tanner motor helicopter and being an innovation it's not really an innovation it's it's a 40 year old innovation it stood the test of time because it provides you such great longitudinal stability and control within the aircraft the chinook is the king of the heavy lift been capable of carrying 26 000 pounds the equivalent of a small tank it's especially good at high altitude work where the air is thin and the efficiency of the blades deteriorates it's been the only helicopter that the u.s forces have had that have been able to operate in altitudes in excess of 16 000 feet in afghanistan i don't want to get into criticizing my my blackhawk brothers because it's a great aircraft for what it's designed to do it just was not capable of operating with any useful payload at that altitude as well as being able to operate up high the chinook is just as good down low it was designed to float like a boat and can land on water for special operations these elite forces have adapted their chinooks with long-range tanks and the ability to refuel in flight and added classified weapons and electronics to this remarkable aircraft because the chinook is an extremely large aircraft it requires a crew of four probably the most important aspect of flying this aircraft is proper crew coordination there are pilots up front however probably the two most important individuals in the aircraft would be the flight engineer and the crew chief those individuals are responsible for securing loads calling us into landing zones and maintaining clearance of such a large aircraft like all pilots major jones still has that passion for flight that started when he was a boy well flying a helicopter is something i've always wanted to do since i was a child and flying at the speed of sound is certainly a thrill but i think there's nothing like flying on a deck you know right on top of the trees at the earth's surface under night vision goggles with poor illumination i don't i don't think it gets any more challenging than that there are several different versions of the chinook and the latest has been developed as a digital aircraft with computers and digital screens it's hoped that these upgrades will extend the life of the chinook for another 20 years and it will successfully integrate into the digital battlefield however upgrading the pilots is not so simple old dogs like me that have been flying this thing for quite a while are used to all the old analog systems the young kids coming up today have grown up with computers they've accommodated it through learning through the process the learning curve to transition to this type of environment is more difficult for me because i learned on something else and i have what we call negative habit transfer trying to overcome that crosby's philosophy is if you want to test this system equitably go to the mall and get the kid that's been playing the video games all day and come see how he does with it with the united states moving towards a fully digitized army will they still be able to fight alongside their less technologically advanced allies we're going to work with allies we're going to work with friends and it doesn't make their systems ineffective if they're not digitized it will reduce their effectiveness as we have that's why we're striving to digitize our platforms because we see as an effectiveness enhancement meanwhile on the other side of the atlantic the british royal navy is also working towards creating its own digitized helicopter force in gulf war ii the closest ally that worked alongside the united states was the united kingdom the royal navy has its own fleet of combat helicopters some among the most advanced in the world like the us helicopters they have excellent designs but in the race towards digitization some still lag behind one successful aircraft in need of an upgrade is the royal navy's mark 8 lynx helicopter the lynx holds the world speed record at 400 kilometers an hour and is designed as an anti-surface and anti-submarine helicopter the lynx is the the world's fastest production helicopter and it's very very agile it has a special rotor head which allows it to be very aerodynamic in comparison to other helicopters makes it a wonderful aircraft to fly as a pilot it's especially agile it's not very forgiving in that it's it is very twitchy but uh if it's like driving a sports car in a comparison to a lot of other helicopters it's like driving a bit of a bus a revolutionary british designed rotor system allows the helicopter to fly faster because the paddle shape of the blades improves the airflow over their surface and delays the onset of blade stall keeping flight crew fully trained for war is a never-ending task today 702 squadron is being briefed on an exercise to fire live skewer missiles from the mark 8 lynx okay good morning gentlemen the aim of this morning's brief is to uh fire and to brief for the firing of 15 live sea skewer weapons each crew today will fire this is a rare occasion to fire live missiles so the crew listen attentively the targets you're firing against are 20 nautical miles to the north west of aberporth in cardigan bay and they consist of four 100 foot barges with radar reflective targets attached to them in addition they have our primary anti-surface weapon and we have 15 missiles to release some of them have reaching their end of their life and we're also trying to ensure that some of the younger people on the unit are getting some experience of firing their missiles skewer is a semi-active medium-range missile and its primary aim is to damage and set on fire if you like smaller fast patrol boats and smaller frigates corvette size the lynx crew of two consists of a pilot and an observer it's my role to detect the enemy shipping uh to classify it so that we know we're actually finding at the right target and then to deploy the weapon to do that i'd eliminate it with the radar and then using the radar i guide the missile onto the target the sea skewer is an extremely effective missile its high explosive warhead only detonates once it penetrates the skin of the ship creating internal fires i have flown with live secure many times in bosnia and kosovo in the 90s however it's the first time i've ever fired one it's very exciting actually a little nervous obviously but it's a very good high feeling of satisfaction when the missile drops off the motors go and on further inspection when we had a look at the targets it hit exactly where we expected it to hit the mission was a success with the skewer blasting a hole through the target in addition to the skewer missile the lynx can also carry torpedoes and depth charges for anti-submarine warfare it has recently acquired a new half-inch caliber machine gun for use against fast moving craft but for all the market links his effectiveness in combat it is yet to be digitized for the future battlefield to enable us to be part of the digital battlefield we need to have the same equipment and the compatible equipment with all our nato and other allies that we are likely to work with the other aircraft within the fleet era are getting to the digital battle space that includes the seeking mark 7 and the merlin we're a little way behind that but the upgrades we are expecting to get in the next few years should enable us to catch up and be poor to be part of that integrated picture some royal navy helicopters have entered the digital battlefield and it's the sea king for many years workhorse of the royal navy that now houses the technology to bring the fleet into the 21st century although the sea king is over 30 years old the new mark 7 version has been radically improved electronically using a large movable radar pod on its side it is now the first advanced surveillance and control helicopter in the world the avionics have been completely upgraded so the radar is new it's very powerful radar and in addition to that it's got state of the art data link which is basically real time information relay to anybody within the theatre of operations it's a massive leap for the navy the main thing is we've moved away from a single role of aw to airborne surveillance from control which means the carrier can take away this platform with them and carry out complete battle space management control of aircraft ships and land forces in one platform what makes the mark 7c king so special is that can actually process three different radar modes at the same time this means it can relay information between sea air and overland contacts and control all those areas of operation instantaneously while at the same time sending the data back to its ship on a new fast digital connection known as link 16. the platforms that are used in that role are normally large fixed wings with a dozen or so crew the beauty of this is that we can stick this on an aircraft carrier with three crew and provide pretty much the same service although the equipment was very new to the crews of 849 squadron while working alongside the americans in gulf war ii they produced some spectacular results that were crucial to the allied campaign the gulf war ii with mark 7 played a vital role not only for our own forces but the link 16 enabled it to integrate with the americans and also our troops on the ground as well so we were able to relay that information instantaneously to them there's still room for further development on the helicopter one area that we still need to address is exactly that our own self-defense we're looking at various systems at the moment that will provide our aircraft with its own defence aid suite so at the moment we are heavily reliant on other forces actually protecting our aircraft but the performance of the mark 7 has been so impressive that new capabilities are being discovered almost daily there's still an awful lot to learn i mean we've only had it really uh front line for just over a year so we're learning things all the time i mean the gulf war was a massive learning curve for us and that's that's continuing from the most sophisticated surveillance and controlled digital system in the world to the most modern combat helicopter in service anywhere the royal navy's merlin it's the first helicopter to be developed by the royal navy in 25 years and it's a quantum leap forward in technology for the united kingdom it's a fantastic aircraft to fly very very maneuverable i mean given the size of it um it's particularly maneuverable um i've flown five or six different types of helicopters now but this is certainly my favorite there's a lot of power the rolls-royce engines produce a lot of power for the aircraft and it's real fun to fly the merlin is without doubt the most advanced in-service helicopter in the world today it's got a fantastic avionics suite three engines redundancy on almost every system but also there we can stay out for longer by shutting one of the engines down in flight which makes our endurance particularly good up to four and a half to five hours with one engine shut down the merlin has two main roles in combat anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare we can carry four stingray torpedoes four mark ii depth chargers or a variety of gpmg general purpose machine guns which we can mount in the cabin door and the windows the radar is very powerful it's what we call a pulse compression radar so what it does is send a very powerful pulse out to long distance and we can track contacts up to 160 miles away what the radar also does is automatically track those contacts for us and give us the tracking and time information which again can be transmitted on the data link back to the surface units on the six lcd displays we have all the information from the sensors which are displayed in a variety of colors for example the hostiles we can display as red the friendlies we can display is green and those color displays are sent to the ship so straight away when that comes through on data link the ship knows whether we think it's a hostile or a friendly unit because the merlin is digital it's easy to run simulated missions there's a dedicated merlin training center which houses four simulators all of which can be linked from one main control room this allows the crews to practice all types of missions in a safe controlled environment all this high technology and promise of a future digital battlefield to be viewed and thought on computer screens makes war begin to sound like one giant video game but what would such a game look like there's a possibility to glimpse this future at an army base in alabama at fort rucker they're training officers and pilots to fight wars on a super simulator called the cav sim in this mock headquarters commanders are learning how to fight today's battles with their troops and helicopters they're in communication with their pilots flying eight simulated helicopters each cubicle can be configured to provide any helicopter needed for the exercise here in master control also known as the stealth room instructors play god managing the battle as well as controlling the enemy in charge is captain dan not the commander tracks the battle using post-it notes on a regular map and butcher blocks or a piece of paper just to write things down from there they translate it up to me via the radios to where i can then see what's going on in their eyes whereas in reality i'm watching a computer screen that tells me exactly where everybody is and how the computer links in the enemy and the friendly and the aircraft and i can see the big picture much like what you're going to have in a few years where everything is tracked all the vehicles we know exactly where they are we know exactly where the enemy is they can see everything a true vision of how battles will be fought in the future it is very similar to a video game and i tease my my children and my wife on a daily basis that that's what i do all day is play video games roger just got a call from eagle five uh what he wants to do but the video game is becoming reality in west palm beach florida it's the dawn of a new age for warfare the digital age in a research facility in southern florida the world's first helicopter conceived and designed to be totally digital is under test called the comanche it's scheduled to be in service in 2009 everything from detection systems to flight controls have been created to work in the digital battlefield this aircraft is the culmination of everything that has gone before and can truly be called the ultimate combat helicopter head of the project colonel bob birmingham has watched the program develop over many years this is aircraft number two it's a second comanche prototype we've had a very successful flight test program and this has been a major part of it on the front end we have recently integrated our electrical optical sensor system and then very soon in the future we're going to be able to design in our laser warning receiver and our radar one and receiver on the front end of this the cockpits we designed really to be identical in terms of the way the flight control systems operate and what the displays are going to show the pilots and we did that really to reduce the amount of training that it's going to take to really operate the aircraft this is uh really where we're going to house our missile systems and also gives us the capability to store internal fuels that as we need to go and fly deeper missions you can see that there's really no exhaust system on here we're really going to vent the exhaust and we're going to cool the exhaust and the heat from that through an exhaust system that's going to run all the way down to the tail when you get down to the tail and if you take a look up the rotor system you can really take a look at why this aircraft is really different these are the bearing-less rotor system five bladed rotor system with torque tubes that run through the system give it a tremendous amount of power and strength and flexibility on the fan tail again a very robust design this really handles about 900 shaft horsepower that comes straight back from the engines in there and you can see that how we've got this design is a very protected area really gives it a tremendous capability protection against enemy threat systems ballistics capability and again a very very unique and robust design unlike previous helicopters flight control computers ensure the pilot flies within the limitations of the machine they prevent him over stressing the airframe and rotor system or damaging the engines by using excessive power this fly-by-wire system gives the comanche some unique handling qualities test pilot bill fell explains i've flown a number of other helicopters and if you in another helicopter took the stick and took it to the extreme of one lateral axis to the other extreme lateral axis even if you did it slowly you've probably broken something in that helicopter in this helicopter i can slam the stick from one side stop to the other side stop as fast as i possibly can and i haven't broken anything all i've done is achieved some incredible roll rates as a result the aircraft can perform maneuvers that until now designers could only dream about this aircraft we can fly backwards in excess of 80 knots we can fly sidewards in excess of 70 knots those are not things that you can do in other helicopters and this aircraft handles it very well you also in flying backwards at 80 knots or sidewards at 70 knots you can do that with your hand off of the controls it will do it all by itself basically if the computer is flying the aircraft for you then it reduces your workload so that you can perform other tasks you can assist in targeting and assist in communications the comanche was designed from the start to be survivable on the battlefield it's officially not called stealthy but it is said to have low observability it has an extremely thin shape making it difficult for radar to detect and hard to see at a distance and its retractable landing gear further reduces its observable profile also by burying the engines internally and having a clever design of tail rotor the noise generated is greatly reduced to minimize the risk of thermal detection the hot exhaust gases from the engines are cooled inside the tail before leaving the aircraft thus reducing the threat of attack from heat-seeking missiles every system on the aircraft is digital but what sets the comanche apart is the onboard information gathering computers the brains of this aircraft really have to do with the aircraft's ability to collect information uh all totally integrated into the cockpit into the mission control computer cluster that provides the capability with a tremendous amount of information from the sensors that go out there these digital detection systems will be able to provide the commander's backup base with constant information on the position of the enemy and their own forces the comanche will become the eyes and ears for the commanders of the future giving them the power to control the battlefield comanche is is clearly a skip a generation technology this is not one generation better than its predecessors that we have out there this is two generations better this does things twice as good as any of the conventional aircraft that we have out there and it does it twice as fast this will transform the world this will change the way that uh that we fight wars uh in the world this is an information system and information is power and that's what comanche provides to the future commanders you
is the boeing ah 64 apache the ultimate weapon the ultimates combat helicopters spark

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