With the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) technology, Apache can control the sensory payloads of of Gray Eagle and Army shadow drones. Boeing was awarded the $24 million contract for expanding the helicopter’s MUM-T capabilities, set to become a part of all Apache configurations.
Crews are able to pursue and engage speedy targets from long distances using the drones’ sensors and the attack helicopter’s powerful weaponry.
Last year Apache Program Manager Col. Jeff Hager told Scout Warrior in an interview, "Now before the unit even deploys out of the Forward Arming Refueling Point, or FARP, they can actually bring up the UAS (drone) feed, look through the sensors and see the target they are going to attack up to 50 or 60 miles away," adding that the sensors also enable crews to make en-route adjustments if necessary.
Hager continued, "They have full situational awareness on that target as they fly inbound and do not lose any data on that target on the way…They don’t go into a situation where they are surprised."
The Army established the first MUM-T squadron in March 2015, with the 1/501st Aviation Battalion of the 1st Armoured Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade based in Fort Bliss, Texas renamed as the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.
This development signaled the debut of a tactical common datalink with the RQ-7B Shadow made by Textron Systems that accompany the Apaches, helping to bolster the service’s scout capabilities.
Lt Col RJ Garcia said at the time, "It's an improved capability that supports soldiers on the ground as they execute the various missions that we assign them…Nothing is stove-piped now. We now have the ability to share across multiple levels."
Currently pilots flying Apaches in Afghanistan are using an upgraded AH-64E-model which utilizes advanced avionics and communications technology, a hardier 7016 engine and composite rotor blades, giving the helicopter expanded performance and speed.
The AH-64E model has the ability to move large amounts of fuel and ammunition in what’s called "high-hot" conditions, withstanding temperatures 95 degrees or higher and altitudes of 6,000 feet. It can also reach speeds of 164 knots, 20 knots faster than the “D” model that preceded it.
By 2025 the Army 690 AH-64Es, which according to officials can also carry 1,200 30mm chain gun rounds, 16 Hellfire missiles and 70 2.75mm rockets.