How the AH-64 Apache Became the Ultimate Attack Helicopter

Sebastien Roblin
Flickr / The U.S. Army

Sebastien Roblin

Security, Americas

A legend.

How the AH-64 Apache Became the Ultimate Attack Helicopter

Early in the morning of January 17, 1991, eight sleek helicopters bristling with missiles swooped low over the sands of the An Nafud desert in as they soared towards the border separating Saudi Arabia from Iraq.

At 2:30 a.m., the choppers fanned out and set to work in teams of two. Rocket motors flashed as Hellfire missiles streaked towards two Iraqi radars powerful enough to potentially pick up the faint signature of a stealth plane.

Minutes after the radars had been reduced to rubble, Nighthawk stealth jets soared through the twenty-mile-wide radar gap, headed for Baghdad. But the Army’s Apache attack helicopter aviators they had struck first to “kick down the door” for the Nighthawks.

Nearly three decades later, the Apache’s status as the world’s premier attack helicopter remains largely unchallenged, and the type continues to see extensive action in the Middle East and in demand in countries as diverse as the UK, Egypt, India and Taiwan. Undeniably, the threats faced by the $35 million armored attack helicopter, which can pack as many as sixteen tank-busting missiles under its stub wings.

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