More than a year after the Army ordered the inspection of a critical safety part in every AH-64 Apache aircraft in the service's fleet, soldiers have spent the equivalent of nine months in extra man-hours retrofitting the airframe so far, a task that has "crash landed" back on combat readiness, a top Army official said on Monday.
On Monday, the head of Army Forces Command revealed that soldiers had sunk an eye-popping 6,672 man hours working their way through the 653 AH-64s in the Army's fleet with the hopes of completing the retrofit by December 2019.
As a result of the undertaking, "readiness has suffered," Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson said at the Army Aviation Association of America in Nashville, Tennessee, adding that the fleet-wide retrofit "put the enterprise in a proverbial tailspin, which crash landed on the backs of our soldiers and our units."
In February 2018, Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) guidance previously obtained by Task & Purpose expanded more rigorous inspections of each Apache's strap pack nut (the component that keeps the rotor blades from separating from the airframe) from "severe coastal" to "all AH-64 aircraft, regardless of location," suggesting an underlying mechanical issue.
A month later, the Pentagon temporarily ceased accepting deliveries of the AH-64E 'Echo' Apache from Boeing due to a "critical" safety issue over the copter's strap pack nut, as Defense News first reported in April 2018.
But part of the problem, according to one Apache aviator who spoke to Task & Purpose on the condition of anonymity, is that Boeing's solution to the strap pack issue — the so-called "mega-nut" furnished to the Army last year — has since been recalled, leaving Army personnel to rely on using legacy strap pack nuts with retention collars as a temporary solution.
"There is a total lack of faith in Boeing's commitment to keeping the aircraft safe, and while we were encouraged by [Chief of Staff Gen. Mark] Milley's decision to stop receiving AH-64s from Boeing during the strap pack fiasco, many of us felt the Army didn't go far enough," the aviator told Task & Purpose.
The Army is currently retrofitting Apaches at a rate of two battalions a month, the service previously announced, with airframes operating near coastal areas being first to receive the new mega nut, since salt water has a greater effect. But as the Apache aviator previously told Task & Purpose, the delays aren't just hurting readiness, but overall morale as well.
"The Army is continuing to fly the fleet of AH-64s, accepting the risk, knowing the issue, and using increased inspections and distilled water rinses to mitigate the risk," the aviator told Task & Purpose. "The pilots aren't a fan of that tactic."
An AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter lands during a combined arms demonstration as part of South Carolina National Guard Air & Ground Expo 2009 at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Oct. 10, 2009. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)
WASHINGTON — The presidential helicopter isn't supposed to leave scorch marks on the White House lawn. So the Navy and Lockheed Martin Corp. are working to fix a "high risk" problem after the new Marine One did just that in a test without the president on board.
You have probably seen plenty of friends posting pictures of themselves as elderly folks on Facebook, courtesy of the viral app called FaceApp. Perhaps you've even given it a try yourself.
But what would happen to your military chain of command board if everyone from the President to the Defense Secretary got the same treatment? Well, you're in luck my friend, because we decided to find out.
A new Marine Corps anti-drone system that attaches to all-terrain vehicles and can scan the skies for enemy aircraft from aboard Navy ships was responsible for destroying an Iranian drone, Military.com has learned.