Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
A Small Part Is Causing Big Problems For The Army’s Apache Fleet
This story has been updated.
Boeing’s AH-64 Apache helicopter is the aerial attack dog of the U.S. Army, its M230 chain gun designed to perforate and intimidate targets in the field. But after three decades, the Army’s putting the attack copter on ice ahead of a come-to-Jesus moment — so to speak.
The Army in February ceased accepting deliveries of the AH-64E Apache variant from Boeing due to concerns over a “critical safety” issue, Defense News first reported on April 19 — namely, a lack of confidence in the strap pack nut that keeps rotor blades from tearing loose from the copter mid-flight.
“We stopped accepting deliveries of new AH-64 Echoes because of a strap pack nut that we believe to be really suspect,” Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd told Defense News, adding that Boeing had pursued a redesign of the faulty component at a “very thorough but expeditious pace over the last six months.”
The failure of such small and crucial item likely caused the in-flight rotor separation and crash of an Apache in Galveston, Texas on December 28, 2016, killing both soldiers on board. That incident involved an AH-64D variant of the attack copter that’s endured some 90 mishaps in the last decade.
U.S. Army/Spc. Alajuwan D. McCoyThree new AH-64E Apache helicopters taxi onto the 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron’s flight line March 22, 2014, at the Hood Army Air Field in Fort Hood, Texas.
The AH-64E variant, the last Apache model procured from Boeing before the Army committed to its Future Vertical Lift program, has seen its own share of technical problems. According to data compiled by Military Times, the Echo was involved in at least 7 of the 133 aviation mishaps that have occurred since 2013, the same year the Army first accepted the chopper into its fleet. As recently as April 7, two soldiers were killed when their Echo crashed during a routine training mission near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Nut failure isn’t a new problem for the Apache: A magnetic-particle examination of the Army’s grounded fleet following a crash of the newly-adopted Apache in 1987 revealed several cracked rotor hub retention nuts, according to 1992 report from U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command (the predecessor to the modern Army Aviation and Missile Command). Although the issue was traced back to a fabrication problem, the nut failure may conjure shades of the growing pains that first plagued the fleet decades ago.
But the freeze is particularly startling amid the U.S. military’s growing aviation mishap crisis, one that’s killed more service members than those killed while serving in Afghanistan under the Operation Freedom’s Sentinel mission in the past year. It also comes at a bad time for the Army’s broader helo fleet: a July 2017 Pentagon inspector general audit found that AMCOM “did not effectively manage airframe condition evaluations” for the UH-60 Black Hawk utility copters and its HH-60M MEDEVAC variant.
The problems facing the Army’s Apache AH-64E fleet will only worsen the Army’s aviation crisis. After all, “fewer flyable aircraft mean that pilots are flying fewer hours, especially non-deployed units,” as Army aviator Crispin Burke observed at The Long March on April 11. “Less training, in turn, can equal more mistakes.” One shortage feeds the other — a problem that both the Army and Boeing are clearly working overtime to address.
“Airworthiness and safety of our fleet is paramount. We put nothing higher than that,” Todd told Defense News. “We expect Boeing as well as anybody that provides a product to the U.S. Army to put a good-faith effort forward in addressing efforts like this any time, and again we look forward to returning a great capability of the Echo model to the fleet soon.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly compared the strap pack nut to the main rotor retaining nut (like the “Jesus nut" on the UH-1 Iroquois, as in “Jesus keep me safe from catastrophic failure”). Thanks to Army aviator Crispin Burke and maintenance manager Jordan Yothers, and we regret the error. (Updated 4/21/2018; 4:41 pm EST)
New London — Retired four-star general John Kelly said that as President Donald Trump's chief of staff, he pushed back against the proposal to deploy U.S. troops to the southern border, arguing at the time that active-duty U.S. military personnel typically don't deploy or operate domestically.
"We don't like it," Kelly said in remarks at the Coast Guard Academy on Thursday night. "We see that as someone else's job meaning law enforcement."
These 'kamikaze' drones are believed to be the culprits of the attacks on 2 Saudi oil fields. Here's what we know about them
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Yemen's Houthi rebel group, part of a regional network of militants backed by Iran, claims to be behind the drone strikes on two Saudi oil facilities that have the potential to disrupt global oil supplies.
A report from the United Nations Security Council published in January suggests that Houthi forces have obtained more powerful drone weaponry than what was previously available to them, and that the newer drones have the capability to travel greater distances and inflict more harm.
The U.S. Air Force has selected two companies to make an extreme cold-weather boot for pilots as part of a long-term effort to better protect aviators from frostbite in emergencies.
In August the service awarded a contract worth up to $4.75 million to be split between Propel LLC and the Belleville Boot Company for boots designed keep pilots' feet warm in temperatures as low as -20 Fahrenheit without the bulk of existing extreme cold weather boots, according to Debra McLean, acquisition program manager for Clothing & Textiles Domain at Air Force Life Cycle Management Command's Agile Combat Support/Human Systems Division.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran rejected accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting world energy supplies and warned on Sunday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles.
Yemen's Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5% of global supply, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally.
Nearly a decade after he allegedly murdered an unarmed Afghan civilian during a 2010 deployment, the case of Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is finally going to trial.