The Arrow in Apache’s Quiver

AH-64E-Apache - AviatorsBuzz
(Source: livemint)

Apache attack helicopters, later referred to as AH-64E Guardian has recently entered Indian Air Force (IAF) service. “To decimate hostile armoured formations and enemy bunker and fortifications,” the package includes 812 Lockheed Martin AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW) plus 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II ATGWs. The Hellfire name comes from its original role as a helicopter-launched fire and forget weapon. The AGM-114L-3, or Longbow Hellfire, is a fire and forget weapon equipped with a Millimetre Wave (MMW) radar seeker coupled with inertial guidance, enabling Lock-On after Launch (LOAL) capability; very effective against hostile multiple rolling armours. 

AH-64E-Apache - AviatorsBuzz
(Source: Financial Express)

The MMW radar also rectifies the inherent limitations of Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH) guidance system by providing capability in adverse weather and battlefield obscurants such as dust, smoke and fog being able to mask the position of the target or to prevent the designating laser from producing a detectable reflection. Besides autonomous homing on targets designated by the Longbow Fire Control system, the missile can also use advanced modes, currently being upgraded to the system, which provides home-in on active jammers that try to degrade or disable the missile. The missile will also receive advanced countermeasures to defeat and cancel jammers. The AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire weighs 49-kg, including the 9-kg tandem shaped charge High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead, and has a range of 12-km against armoured formations and fortified installations. In the close support anti-armour role, the helicopter carries 16 AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire ATGW on four four-rail launchers plus 4 Stinger Block I-92H Air-to-Air Missiles (AAM) for self-protection.

For effective fire control and optimum utilisation of AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire, the AH-64D ‘Longbow Apache’ is equipped with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 millimetre-wave Fire Control Radar (FCR) capable of performing under poor-visibility conditions, less sensitive to ground clutter, while the short wavelength allows a very narrow beamwidth, which is resistant to Electronic Counter Measures (ECM). AN/APG-78 additionally, incorporates an integrated AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometer for passive location and identification of radar-emitting threats. The Longbow Apache can execute an attack in 30-seconds while remaining behind natural terrain if necessary with the radar dome atop the rotor blades unmasked for a single radar scan and then remasked, enabling the processors determine the location, speed and direction of travel of a maximum of 256 targets.

Complementing the AGM-114L-3 Longbow Hellfire will be the multi-purpose 8-km range AGM-114R or ‘Romeo’ that uses a Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH) guidance system and an integrated blast fragmentation sleeve (IBFS) warhead likely built around tandem shaped charge HEAT to engage targets that previously needed multiple Hellfire variants. Hellfire II locks on before or after launch and can engage multiple targets simultaneously. The missile uses trajectory shaping to enable optimal performance in degraded weather along with automatic target reacquisition after loss of track in low clouds. The digital autopilot can be reprogrammed in flight, to home in on new targets in when employed in a LOAL mode. 

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Nitin Konde is a freelance journalist with an experience of more than a decade. Being a freelancer, he has covered various domains in his field such as Sports, Biotechnology, Defence etc. and has been associated with brands like The Times of India, Vayu Aerospace and Defence Review Magazines. Since the last three years he has been focusing and writing extensively on the defence sector, he is here to share his expertise with our readers on AviatorsBuzz.