Pentagon replaces helicopters damaged in Iraq war

MESA, Ariz., 1 Nov. 2005. The Boeing Co. has received a $192.5 million Pentagon contract to build 13 AH-64D Apache Longbow combat helicopters to replace Apaches damaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nov 1st, 2005

MESA, Ariz., 1 Nov. 2005. The Boeing Co. has received a $192.5 million Pentagon contract to build 13 AH-64D Apache Longbow combat helicopters to replace Apaches damaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Production of the new machines will begin early next year with deliveries scheduled at a rate of about three per month from June to September 2007, said David Almond, program manager.

"These are wartime replacement aircraft," Boeing spokeswoman Carole Thompson-Sutton said. "They will replace aircraft that are nonrepairable."

The order is the first in which the U.S. military asked the defense contractor to build Apache Longbows from scratch. All other AH-64Ds for the U.S. Army and many for foreign allies have been remanufactured from existing AH-64A airframes.

The D model includes more advanced radars and other improvements over the A model.

The order will help Boeing fill a looming production gap beginning late next year and extending to late 2007 when the company previously had no deliveries scheduled for the U.S. Army. Before the order for the 13 replacements, Boeing could count only on foreign orders to keep the assembly line humming during that period.

Even with the 13 additional machines, deliveries will still drop to two to four Apaches a month during most of that time, Almond said. That compares with the current delivery rate of five D models a month for the U.S. Army and four to five a month for foreign customers, he said.

Beginning in October 2007, Boeing will resume delivering remanufactured D model Apaches to the U.S. Army. That program will continue to 2010 when Boeing will begin delivering so-called Block III Apaches -- an even more advanced version of the venerable gunship. Block III aircraft will include 25 technology improvements including extended-range missiles and the ability to launch and control unmanned aerial vehicles.

Boeing officials said it's too soon to know if any work force cutbacks will be needed during the 2006-07 slowdown. That will depend on whether the Mesa complex can win more foreign orders or added subcontracting work from other divisions within Boeing, they said.

The company employs about 4,900 workers at the Mesa complex, a number that has remained fairly constant for several years.

Source: The East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

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