Utah and Mississippi crashes ‘froze’ all US National Guard choppers

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All helicopter flights under the US Army National Guard have come to a complete halt or, in military parlance, are “frozen” in the face of the unfortunate crashes that occurred recently in Utah and Mississippi. The first of the crashes, dated February 12, was an AH-64D Apache model helicopter in Utah. Shortly after, another AH-64D Apache met a similar fate on February 23; this time, however, the location was Mississippi. 

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

So, what can we expect moving forward? American sources assure that a comprehensive investigation is already underway, seeking to explore the reasons behind the twin crashes. Additionally, a complete overhaul of safety measures and practices is in the works. 

Just as a gentle reminder, the crash in Mississippi claimed the lives of two highly regarded Guard Pilots – Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian Andrew Zemek, aged 36, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott, aged 42. The tragedy unfolded during a routine training flight, as reported by BulgarianMilitary.com.

The AH-64D’s role

Undoubtedly, the primary function of the AH-64D Apache is its ability to perform armed reconnaissance. The state-of-the-art sensors and targeting systems enable it to identify, track, and engage adversaries. Adaptable in all weather conditions and perfectly suited for day and night operations, it holds a significant place in battle strategies. 

Moreover, the AH-64D Apache showcases its expertise in attack operations. Equipped with a 30mm automatic cannon, Hellfire missiles, and Hydra 70 rocket pods, it excels in attacking a wide range of targets – from enemy armor to fortifications. 

Photo credit: Boeing

Furthermore, the AH-64D Apache plays an essential role in escort missions. With its robust firepower and resilience, it provides excellent protection for slower, more exposed aircraft, such as transport helicopters. 

To conclude, the role of the AH-64D Apache also extends to command and control tasks. Thanks to its sophisticated communication systems, the helicopter can operate as a mobile command center, coordinating the movements of different battlefield units.

High profile incidents

Publicly accessible documents reveal several high-profile accidents involving the AH-64D Apache. For instance, in 2011, the tragic crash of two AH-64D Apaches during a training session in the United States resulted in the death of four military personnel. A similar incident occurred in 2015, wherein an Apache crash in Tennessee claimed the lives of both pilots. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Fast-forwarding to 2023, a catastrophic collision involving two Black Hawk helicopters in Kentucky resulted in nine fatalities. Additionally, a mid-air mishap between two Apaches in Alaska was also recorded. In response to this series of unfortunate events, the Army grounded its entire fleet of helicopters as a safety measure.

AH-64D’s key features

The AH-64D Apache is a twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed with a 30 mm [1.18 in] M230 chain gun located between the main landing gear, and under the aircraft’s forward fuselage. It has four hardpoints located on stub-wing pylons, typically carrying a mix of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods. 

Photo credit: Boeing

The Apache is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-701 turboshaft engines, each providing 1,890 shaft horsepower. This allows the helicopter to reach a maximum speed of 182 miles per hour and delivers a climb rate of 2,500 feet per minute. The Apache’s service ceiling, or the maximum altitude at which it can fly, is approximately 21,000 feet. 

Regarding its dimensions, the AH-64D Apache measures 58.17 feet in length, stands 12.7 feet in height and boasts a rotor diameter of 48 feet. The aircraft’s empty weight clocks in around 11,387 pounds, and it can carry a maximum takeoff weight of 23,000 pounds.

Weaponry

The armament of the Apache is truly impressive. It’s equipped with a 30mm automatic M230 Chain Gun, located under the fuselage. Additionally, it boasts four hardpoints on stub-wing pylons, able to accommodate a unique blend of AGM-114 Hellfire and Hydra 70 rocket pods. Typically, the Hellfire missiles serve for precision strikes against heavily armored targets. The Hydra 70 rockets specialize in area suppression and softer target combat.

The operational range of the AH-64D Apache spans approximately 300 miles but can extend further thanks to its mid-air refueling capability. With an endurance of about three hours without refueling, this helicopter has proven itself a formidable tool in any military action.

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